How was the International Association for SAP Partners (IA4SP) founded?
Baljer: Many reasons speak to collaboration among SAP partners. They have common interests and a need for coordination on the most varied topics. Communication between partners functions only when it follows a structure, especially because the number of partners is steadily growing. Our initial conversation led to the idea of founding an association. Ultimately, eleven companies founded the association at the beginning of May.
What’s the core thought behind the association?
Baljer: Today, SAP depends more than ever on partner companies to drive its ambitious corporate goals like reaching 100,000 SME customers by 2010 or advancing the use of enterprise service-oriented architecture (enterprise SOA). Partners play a central role in many customer projects. The number of partners is growing every year, as is the number of SAP partner programs. For a smoothly functioning ecosystem, it’s becoming more and more important that partners work out agreements not only bilaterally with SAP and user groups, but also among themselves. Structured communications channels are an advantage for everyone involved.
How would you describe the goals of the IA4SP?
Baljer: We offer an organizational context for coordinating the high-level interests of SAP partners and presenting them to SAP. We want to set up a partner network that improves planning security and coordinates with SAP in the areas of sales and distribution, development, consulting, support, and training. We will also contribute to the further development and optimization of the SAP partner ecosystem.
You speak of the high-level interests of partners. Don’t you find conflicts there? After all, some companies are direct competitors with each other.
Baljer: Of course, partner companies often meet as competitors. But they also cooperate on many customer projects, which are enhanced with the solutions and services. You often find competitive situations in one area – like system integration – but partner-like collaboration in other areas – like hosting or technology.The goal of the IA4SP is not to market products, solutions, or services. Each partner quite naturally represents its own economic interests. The IA4SP focuses only on high-level, general topics of all partners, like standards and certification.
Why should an SAP partner company join the association?
Baljer: The IA4SP views itself as a service provider for its members. Good examples include sharing information and experience and being a contact person for SAP about reaching a specific partner status. We enable a direct dialog with SAP. The IA4SP leads to faster decisions and more security in technical planning. Finally, a strong ecosystem is a win-win situation for everyone: customers, SAP, and partners.
Which companies can join the association?
Baljer: Because the IA4SP addresses the widest-possible group of members, it addresses all SAP partners, regardless of their partner category or status. Every company that has at least one official, SAP-certified partner status can become a full member. Companies that have created a business model based on SAP and want to support the goals of the IA4SP can become associate members.
Given its current membership, is the IA4SP truly “international”?
Baljer: Our initial focus is on central Europe. After all, the association is headquartered in Walldorf. But the IA4SP is also open to partners without German or European offices. In these cases, future collaboration should bridge the distances with regional chapters. We also strive for collaboration with ASUG, the SAP user group in the United States, and with other international organizations in the SAP ecosystem.
What’s the reaction to the foundation of the association been so far?
Baljer: The response has been completely positive. More than 50 companies have reacted to our press release on the foundation of the IA4SP and asked for more information. Six new companies have already joined the eleven founders, and others are in the processes of seeking approval for membership.
What structure does the IA4SP have and how does it work?
Baljer: The IA4SP follows the approach and structure of DSAG, the German SAP User Group. We usually meet at the partner port in Walldorf, right next to SAP headquarters. Right now, we’re working to set up these structures. The association has a board of directors, a steering committee, and working groups. The steering committee consists of the board of directors and representatives of the working group. It creates working groups and directs the flow of information. It generally meets every three to four months. A working group is set up by the board of directors at the request of members. A working group is charged with solving particular tasks. Topical content is treated by working groups.
Which working groups have been formed since the foundation of the IA4SP?
Baljer: We’ve created two working groups and selected the chairs. The topics cover “partner programs 2010 and the basics of certification” and “resell solutions, sales and distribution, and services.” The initial tasks will work on setting goals, creating a structure, and limiting the scope of the content. Right now we’re working with SAP to find an appropriate contact person who can expand the topic for a larger group.
How is IA4SP positioned in comparison with the SAP User Groups? Where do the two associations intersect?
Baljer: The user groups represent the concerns of SAP users. Its focus is on customers. Yes, some SAP partners are members. But because the user groups focus on user companies, it’s not the right platform for the interests of SAP partners. That’s what the IA4SP is doing. We meet regularly with DSAG to exchange notes. Perhaps the following comparison can clarify matters. For users, the user group is what a national automobile association is for drivers – say ADAC in Germany or AAA in the United States. AAA represents the interests of its members: drivers. The IA4SP is more like an association of the automobile industry. It works with vehicle manufactuers and suppliers to set standards and to standardize and simplify collaboration between companies. But that benefits drivers as well. For example, every car radio fits in the standard socket of every automobile manufacturer.
How does the IA4SP want to communicate with SAP?
Baljer: The goal is to create a common platform for structured communication with SAP. That’s why we have regular meetings at the management level, working groups, and councils. We want to adopt the proven, ten-year-old model used by DSAG and SAP and use it for collaboration between IA4SP and SAP.
And what does SAP think of IA4SP?
Baljer: Before the actual foundation of the association, we held a number of conversations with SAP. The reaction was and remains thoroughly positive. SAP recognizes the added value of the partner association for the partner ecosystem. SAP benefits from communicating with multiple partners simultaneously because it saves the company from having to communicate over various channels and enables faster decisions. Ultimately, we support the setup and operation of an efficient partner ecosystem – and feedback from many colleagues at SAP confirms it.
Information for prospective members:
Phone: +49 (6227) 73-3300
Fax: +49 (6227) 73-3301
Franz Baljer: telephone +49 (171) 797 3929