With one year at the helm of the company’s global partner business, SAP Chief Partner Officer Karl Fahrbach is now taking the partner experience to new heights with the Next-Generation Partnering initiative.
In this interview, Fahrbach discusses how innovation, economics, and experience form the basis of the movement — and why he believes, “partner success is customer success.”
Q: The SAP partner business came out of 2019 with strong momentum. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has transformed global business. What is your advice to SAP partners as they navigate this unprecedented business environment?
A: I certainly hope that our partners and their employees are feeling well and staying healthy. That’s the most important thing for all of us. On the business front, I hope everyone is adapting quickly to this new remote business environment.
For partners, no matter what your customer engagement model was in the past, you must put your focus on effective digital marketing and sales right now. Like every crisis, it comes with an opportunity, and this is how we reinvent our offerings to serve customers in a different way: An even greater adoption of digitalization is a must. Talk to customers with empathy and a keen understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on their particular industry.
We have created a COVID19 partner task force to identify temporary safeguards to help partners retain business continuity during this trying time. We are evaluating the evolution of this situation almost daily and what measures we can put in place to help our partners. So far, we’ve rolled out the following resiliency measures:
- Partner program levels are protected from downgrade until further notice.
- More flexibility in market development fund (MDF) usage, with no expiration until December 18, 2020.
- If a partner business is facing serious constraints, SAP partner managers are available to help find solutions. Email email@example.com.
- Subsidies are available for virtual learning and certification on SAP Learning Hub to increase consultant capacity. This includes 20 hours of free SAP S/4HANA consultant training.
- Partners can promote their own free software in a special community hosted by SAP.
- We’re offering free digital tools and training as well as free campaigns to boost marketing and demand.
- SAP PartnerEdge program fee payment will be postponed.
Complete details on these measures can be found at the COVID-19 partner resource center on SAPPartnerEdge.com (partners only).
Additionally, SAP offers customers free resources and support.
You’ve been chief partner officer for one year now. What have been some of your top priorities during this time?
When I stepped into this role, understanding partner needs was my priority, and I spent a lot of time meeting one-on-one with partners and listening. Our Next-Generation Partnering movement is in response to their input. Since we began rolling out the initiatives, we have received a lot of positive feedback from partners of all sizes serving a range of industries.
This movement is all about innovation, economics, and experience. SAP can’t deliver all the components for the Intelligent Enterprise ourselves. That is why the initiatives are so important. Partners should find it easier to work in the cloud and with SAP. They should experience strong collaboration and ease in bringing their own innovative solutions to market, developing business models for profitable and sustained growth, and providing a seamless customer experience.
Also key was to generate awareness at all levels in the company of the importance and relevance of partnering. Today, partnering has become one of the strategic areas for SAP.
SAP is emphasizing experience management for customers, brand, employees, and product. How is SAP transforming partner experience?
An excellent partner experience is needed to create a strong customer experience. Partner success is customer success. To address this, we have streamlined our own internal partner operations to give our partners a single “go-to contact” model to get business done. Another big priority is to build products that are more partner-ready. Partners should find it easier to innovate on top of SAP solutions to best serve their customers.
What we also focus on is retooling our partner program. Partners will no longer be evaluated on how much they sell, but instead will be evaluated and rewarded for successful customer outcomes. Implementation is another crucial area. In January, the first wave of the improved partner enablement experience was rolled out: a one-stop-shop enablement area on the SAP PartnerEdge site. This includes learning materials for every solution in the portfolio, for all partner types and roles; outcome-based guidance for partner decision makers; and a continuous listening and improvement cycle to make the engagement experience the best. In the second wave, partners can expect harmonized and complete SAP PartnerEdge learning materials to help partners to bring our vision of the Intelligent Enterprise to life.
SAP’s cloud business grew 39 percent in 2019; at the same time, the company doubled down on its commitment to provide maintenance support for the SAP Business Suite into 2027, and SAP S/4HANA until 2040. On this broad playing field, what are the opportunities for partners?
The opportunity is in the cloud. In the coming years, cloud-based activities will account for more than 60 percent of net new revenues for SAP partners. One of the largest opportunities for partners is creating their own innovative packages. SAP-qualified partner-packaged solutions offer partners the opportunity to build their own IP on market-leading SAP software with industry or line-of-business expertise, specialized services, customizations, configurations, or applications. We had more than 400 partners fueling this category with more than 1,100 packages by the end of 2019.
Let’s talk about the role of specialization for partner success. We’ve recently heard SAP Co-CEO Christian Klein say “one vendor cannot do it alone.” How is SAP fostering collaboration among partners?
I totally agree with this sentiment – SAP can’t do it all alone. We need partners. They are essential to SAP’s vision and delivery of the Intelligent Enterprise, as there will be white space and gaps. That is where partners come in. SAP App Center is one place where partners can see how other partners are driving their business on SAP. Today, it has more than 1,800 SAP partner solutions across a wide variety of SAP technologies and lines of business.