Helping Partners Grow with SAP

business_partner_handshake What are IA4SP’s objectives?

Franz Baljer: We have two main objectives. The first one is getting SAP’s partners to work together to attract and expand joint business and to share best practices. Our committees and focus groups provide guidelines and support. We found that a lot of partners are not sure how to get the most out of working with SAP and with each other, and are keen to share their experience.

Our second objective is to improve how we communicate with SAP and how SAP communicates with us so that we receive more information from SAP and build on this knowledge in meetings and discussions. We also want a dialog between SAP and its partners for constructive discussion on those things that we could do better operationally and strategically. We believe this serves the interests of our customers, as it will help us improve the quality of our customer projects.

How do your objectives align with SAP’s?

We have one common interest: enabling partners as best as we can. And that’s where we come together. You can see this cooperation in action in our joint work committees. We’ve just reorganized, and are now focusing more on key topics such as applications, mobility, SAP HANA, business analytics, and cloud computing, and addressing them together as a partner community. We also want to work more closely with SAP and with the German-Speaking SAP User Group, DSAG. DSAG represents customers and their requirements, and we focus on partners and partner models. But we could create a common cause, as we are all affected. We have a lot of common aims, and we could work on them better together.

Next page: How does SAP strategy affect partners?

Franz Baljer, chair of IA4SP’s management board

What are your members’ main concerns right now?

In cloud, in-memory, and mobility, a lot of our members are wondering how they should realign their businesses. You can’t do everything at once, so partners have to think about what’s the best match for their business right now, and in what direction they can go in the future. Communication with SAP is a regular topic, and that’s why we have a “Partnership with SAP” committee to look at communication. They meet several times a year, and SAP joins each meeting.

What effect does SAP’s strategy have on its partners?

SAP’s numerous acquisitions lead to a lot of changes for partners, so they need a bit of time to adapt to that kind of strategy. Many of our members have been partners of more than one company at the same time, such as SAP partners who were also Business Objects partners. Contracts and terms and conditions have to be amended first. Our members want to know the easiest way of doing that, whether there are any best practices, and what they have to consider. What’s more, if we take Database and Technology, SAP is indirectly getting into the infrastructure business. What we are seeing at IA4SP is that suddenly other partners are important, partners who are not service partners. This is especially evident in the discussions around hosting in the SAP HANA environment. For instance, partner managers at T-Systems have global responsibility and most of the SAP HANA topics that we have to deal with relate to hosting, not services. Partners often have to think more about the bigger picture, as the lines between implementation, service, hosting, and technology are blurring.

Next page: What’s next for IA4SP?

Do partners need to diversify? Can they survive if they remain in their niche?

They can do that. The point is, though, that the partner models SAP offers are not really designed for that. Although we are all part of SAP’s PartnerEdge program, within that program there are different categories of partner, and certain categories are working toward different targets, such as joint partner revenue and reselling revenue. There are no joint hosting targets; partners just have to be certified. But as I said, the lines are blurring. On the operations side, we are working together on many SAP HANA topics. So hosting partners are involved in reselling and co-selling, which wasn’t the case in the past, and infrastructure topics have led to this change. Partners who recognize this and have realigned accordingly are seeing the rewards.

What’s next for IA4SP?

We want to attract many more partners as fast as possible. That was one of the reasons we reorganized. Having a significant number of new members will make us more representative. At the moment we have 55 partners. That’s a good start, but compared with the total number there’s certainly room to grow. And that is our aim. I think there is potential for us and for SAP. 37% of SAP’s revenue is from indirect business – from partners. In Germany, though, partners bring in only 17% of business, so there is plenty of room for improvement there, and in the Austria, Germany, Switzerland region as a whole, SAP’s traditional mature market.