Specialisation has been the watchword for a smorgasbord of enterprise vendors in the past couple of years. Volume giants including HP, Oracle, EMC, Cisco and Microsoft have all made moves to show the love to partners who deliver specialised expertise, rather than just (or, preferably, in addition to) a meaty top line.
SAP is set to become the latest big-brand manufacturer to embrace niche players, as part of plans to drive its business to become 40 per cent channel-centric.
John Antunes (pictured), director of SME and channels at SAP UK and Ireland, told ChannelWeb that his firm has 75 active channel partners in the UK. Increasing its channel footprint in the CRM space is a focus for this year, he claimed, as is “going down the specialisation route”.
“We have a breadth of business in terms of things such as mobility and business analytics, whereas ERP is quite a vertical line,” said Antunes. “With business analytics, partners with those specific skill sets can get those solutions across multiple verticals because it is the technology that is driving adoption.”
Eric Duffaut, president of global ecosystem and channels, explained that the push towards specialists is endorsed at a corporate level. He added that, while “you cannot separate” value and volume entirely, the vendor wants to increase its focus on specialist skills and greenfield custom.
“We will increasingly go after specialisation and the partner programme will support that,” he said. “We also want to reward partners for what they bring to SAP and we will reward them for bringing in net new customers, versus working in the install base.
“We are going to evolve our discount framework to differentiate the skills they bring to SAP and the efforts and the investment they make. You will see that in the second half of 2012 and we will be communicating to our partners before summer.”
Duffaut claimed that, in 2011, SAP drove 30 per cent of its software revenue through the channel, up from 21 per cent in 2010. Indirect sales accounted for less than 10 per cent of the total when he joined seven years ago, he added.
By 2012, the vendor is “committing” to increase its channel-centricity to at least 40 per cent, asserted the partner boss. Duffaut’s plans for the channel hang on three key tenets, the first of which is expanding the partner base to plug any coverage holes, particularly in emerging markets.
Second, SAP wants to drive greater adoption of the breadth of its portfolio among its existing partner base. “We want our A1 partners to embrace mobile,” added Duffaut.
“Finally, we want to make it simpler to work with SAP, which is a key element for us to continue to scale and make SAP the partner of choice. We have demonstrated that we are the best choice for customers, and we want to demonstrate that we are also the best choice for VARs.”
Licence to thrill
With other software vendors having made moves to increase the flexibility of their licences in the past couple of years, particularly for volume customers, the SAP channel boss insisted that adopting a “best-fits approach” has been a “critical success factor” of his firm for years.
“We have observed changes, but continue to see [some] customers preferring to go for an upfront investment in on-premise solutions, while others go for pay as you go,” said Duffaut.
Ankush Korla, EMEA channel director of content management specialist OpenText, claimed SAP’s increased channel-friendliness has been evident for a couple of years.
”Thanks largely to Eric Duffaut it is now pursuing a relentlessly aggressive channel strategy,” he said. “We can see the change in every aspect of the relationship, but especially in their selection of partners by specialisation.
“We have seen a much greater energy and focus on simplifying engagement with partners, supported by a significant increase in SAP’s own channel investments in marketing, specialists and its Partneredge programme.”
Darron Walton, managing director of US-headquartered Business ByDesign reseller De Villiers Walton, claimed that over the past three months, his firm’s engagement with SAP “has noticeably increased on both sides of the Atlantic, but particularly in the UK”.
“We are being brought in on deals which SAP may have pursued directly six months ago,” he added. “We meet more frequently and have a dedicated channel manager. We have access to SAP sales and pre-sales resource to work with us on deals, which is essential with a reasonably new product such as ByDesign.”
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