Interview with Dahra Williams: How a Passionate Leader Guides Partners to Success

Dahra Williams, global vice president of Procurement Partner Programs within the Global Partner Enablement organization at SAP, is a passionate leader focused on ensuring partners have all the resources they need to position, deliver, adopt, and consume cloud solutions, such as Intelligent Spend Management and SAP Business Network.

Here, Williams discusses partner opportunity, strategy, and mission for 2021, as well as how she and her team are enabling the partner ecosystem for the future.

Q: Tell us about yourself. What are your hobbies? What do you do outside of work?

A: I live in Atlanta, GA, with my husband, two daughters aged 18 and 12, who during the school year keep us busy with their activities, and our two-year-old labradoodle, who sometimes makes an appearance during conference calls.

I enjoy walks outdoors, reading, yoga, and time spent with family and friends, usually over a good meal and wine. I look forward to traveling again both personally and for work, and I will hopefully be able to plan a beach vacation soon.

What is your role within the Global Partner Enablement team at SAP?

Our team considers ourselves trusted advisors and advocates for our partners—it is our mission to ensure partners are successful in everything they do. A critical part of that work is building relationships with functional colleagues throughout SAP to leverage the programs they develop and adapt those for partners. In my role, I drive strategy and alignment, enabling the team to successfully execute its goals. While we largely focus on education and enablement, we also create more holistic partner programs that help partners accelerate their competency levels from ‘class smart’ to ‘street smart.’

How did your career start?

My career started right out of university, in corporate finance at Hewlett-Packard. When Hewlett-Packard implemented Ariba Buyer OnPremise, I moved from finance into corporate procurement, where I joined a project implementation team. After a few years, myself and an internal team of more than 30 individuals spun off and created a business process outsourcing startup called Alliente, for which I was a founding member. In 2004 Ariba purchased Alliente, in 2012 SAP bought Ariba, and here I am.

This is my 21st year with SAP, including the acquisitions, and it has been quite an exciting journey. Throughout the years, I have had the great fortune to work in a variety of roles and functions, including operations, strategy, consulting, project management, chief-of-staff, partner programs, and enablement. In addition to the incredible education and opportunities these experiences have provided, what I’ve enjoyed most are the colleagues and friendships I have formed along the way.

I have always been open to exploring new opportunities and have worked with some great managers, mentors, and colleagues along the way. Looking back, it’s interesting to realize that most of my time spent over the last twenty years has been working with partners in some capacity. Through this work, I have developed a real passion for making partners successful and understanding their critical importance to SAP’s success. It is exciting to see the progress we have made to date, and I look forward to the future ahead.

What are you particularly proud of?

When I first joined the Partner Ecosystem team within SAP Ariba, only one individual on the team focused on sales and presales enablement globally. After managing SAP Ariba’s integration into SAP PartnerEdge, our ecosystem began to rapidly expand, and I was asked to build out a partner enablement function in 2017. Over the past three years, we expanded to a global team of 30 at our peak in mid-2020.

Having the opportunity to create the functional strategy, recruit talented colleagues, and witness the team exceed all its key performance indicators is one of my proudest professional achievements. When we embarked on this journey, we were often told that many of our greatest successes and best practices—such as creating the first demo development support offering for partners, starting a global partner presales validation program, building out our partner certification program while significantly growing adoption, and creating our first-ever partner delivery community in 2020, which now serves over 2,000 partners worldwide—were too challenging. Through hard work, perseverance, creative vision, and teamwork we accomplished all of this and more. I couldn’t be prouder of the entire team.

How did COVID-19 impact your life and work, and how has your team been affected?

During most of my career at SAP, I primarily worked from home with periodic travel. So for me, COVID-19 didn’t bring much change regarding my work environment. However, I miss meeting with colleagues face-to-face. Also, since we are limited in what we can do in our personal lives outside of work, it is very common for the workday to start early and end late, with the days seemingly blending from one to the next. Lately, I’ve been taking short breaks by scheduling walks during the workday to get fresh air and clear my mind. In the evening, I log off and cook meals together with my family. I have even participated in some of the mindfulness sessions that SAP offers. I have really been impressed by the amount of resources SAP has provided to support employees in these times.

I also encourage the team to find ways to balance work and personal life, so they don’t get burned out. They have been very creative in keeping team camaraderie going, by hosting virtual themed team meetings, team happy hours, and even team scavenger hunts. At the same time, they applied this creativity to better support our partners.

We moved a lot of our partner training to digital and have seen tremendous increases in adoption. We have released new Learning Journeys, outcome-based guidance for decision-makers, and improved content in SAP PartnerEdge and our partner delivery community for consultants. Also, we worked with SAP Learning to revamp our certification portfolio. This has freed up resources to build out higher-touch coaching programs, like go-live experience, presales validation, extensibility success days, competitive intelligence webinars, and more, for our most strategic partners who are willing to make that extra investment in SAP. All these programs have been well received by our partners, and we are excited to continue delivering even more post-COVID-19.

Looking ahead, what can SAP partners expect?

I couldn’t be more excited for the partner opportunity in 2021 and beyond. Having spent much of my ecosystem career in cloud, I believe this is the year for the cloud buying centers to work more closely together to deliver a consistent experience for our partners. We will leverage our digital core to provide programs that allow partners to position the Intelligent Enterprise and industry-focused solutions to their customers. RISE with SAP is a fantastic example of this. From an operational perspective, our team is already structured around LACE (land, adopt, consume, expand), so leveraging this formal model should help us continue flawless execution.

Furthermore, this year we will all have an increased focus on customer adoption and expansion. We will support partners in these areas by creating programs that allow them to showcase additional delivery competencies, help customers unlock shelf-ware, and drive recurring revenue. Our ability to tap into our partners’ industry expertise will also be critically important. And finally, initiatives related to building IP and extending SAP‘s intelligent suite are yet another massive opportunity for partners. By providing a clear path for extending SAP standard solutions with SAP Business Technology Platform, leveraging our core application programming interfaces (APIs), and showcasing our partner solution progression journey, we are enabling our ecosystem for the future.