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Outsourcing in the Cloud and Beyond: How to Choose the Right Partner

by Michael Ressemann | SAPinsider

October 1, 2011

Cloud services have become increasingly popular and many service providers are already leveraging cloud-based infrastructures to operate on and deliver outsourcing services. Now companies are wondering: "What will this do for us?" "Will it optimize our IT investments at a lower cost and with fewer business risks?" "Or will it actually increase our risks?" This article helps answer these questions and describes the SAP Outsourcing Certification Programs, which can help companies find the right service provider to fit their needs.

We live in a world in which outsourcing IT and business processes is the standard operating practice for most businesses. Customers rely on their service providers — be it for cloud, hosting, or application management — to implement best practices, operate under given service-level agreements, and comply with all legal, regulatory, and statutory policies and procedures.

Due to the popularity of cloud services in particular, many service providers have either moved to or are in the process of leveraging cloud-based infrastructures to operate on and deliver outsourcing services. So now companies are wondering: What will this do for us? Will it optimize our IT investments at a lower cost and with fewer business risks? Or will it actually increase our risks?

On top of that, many service providers are in rapid expansion mode, trying to grow both their geographic reach and their service offerings. However, there are several important questions to keep in mind during this growth period. As service providers grow, the business environment changes, technologies change, and operating models evolve — so customers must ask:

  • Does this service provider have the bench strength needed to provide the level of service it has contractually committed to in the event of a disaster? 
  • What level of business continuity is the service provider able to ensure in case of a disaster? 
  • Are the services provided living up to the standards promised? 

Companies need to get satisfactory answers to these questions as they evaluate potential service providers — but how do you ensure the information you are hearing is true? Of course, it’s not practical to continuously monitor everything a service provider does, nor is it practical for the service provider to explain every decision they make to each of their clients. That’s where the SAP Outsourcing Certification Programs come into play.

The SAP Outsourcing Certification Programs: How Do They Work?

To help customers identify best-in-class service providers in a practical, fact-based way, SAP has instituted outsourcing certification programs that review various aspects of a service provider’s operations. Only those service providers whose operations satisfy SAP’s stringent standards of excellence in IT outsourcing services can earn these certifications (see Figure 1).


Capability required for certification*






Application management services

SAP service portfolio







Technical administration skills







SAP functional skills







IT infrastructure (data center, network, backup, disaster recovery)







Customer requirements evaluation, service design, knowledge transfer, service go-live







IT service management (scope depends on certification type)







SAP application hosting, technical project management







* Technical components, software modules, and specific implementations are not part of these certifications. SAP does not test the provider’s solutions or platforms. The certification of the capability of a provider to deliver the service does not automatically mean that every service activity or component of the provider is fully supported by SAP. The provider is still responsible for all provided services being based on SAP-supported building blocks.

Figure 1 The SAP Outsourcing Certification Programs audit several important provider capabilities in hosting, cloud, and application management services

Key features of these programs include:

  • Rigorous assessment of the provider’s expertise in delivering outsourcing services — for cloud, hosting, or application management —  that will support SAP solutions on a local or global basis, based on both industry standards and best practices
  • Continuous expert knowledge transfer by SAP
  • Confirmation of the provider’s expert support for the entire service life cycle, including the initial go-live, ongoing maintenance and support, and future upgrades
  • Support for the evolution of the customer’s SAP solution roadmap
  • Go-to-market support from SAP in the form of co-marketing activities

The certification programs also verify that the service provider has the right IT standards and certifications (ISO, CMMI, and SAS 70, for example) as per their marketing claims. Additionally, SAP recently extended the existing certification programs to cover customer requests to manage cloud environments offered by infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) providers (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 An overview of how the SAP Outsourcing Certification Programs are positioned in the anything-as-a-service (XaaS) stack, covering SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS

Benefits for Both Service Providers and Customers

These certification programs provide clear benefits on both sides of the equation, for SAP customers and service providers alike. For example, to meet SAP’s standards, the outsourcing service providers are challenged and inspired to:

  • Deliver outsourcing services that help their customers optimize their IT investments by maximizing the availability, performance, and flexibility of outsourced SAP solutions
  • Gain the right skills, tools, and procedural knowledge to manage SAP software
  • Expand market opportunities and increase revenue by using outsourcing services for SAP enterprise applications

Thus, achieving certification helps service providers distinguish themselves in a mature market. Plus, it serves as a mark of excellence that lets SAP customers identify and choose best-in-class service providers. This in turn helps customers:

  • Lower the total cost of owning and operating both SAP and non-SAP applications
  • Increase both their service quality and their customer satisfaction
  • Mitigate the potential risks associated with outsourcing projects
  • Gain support to drive new revenue opportunities

Handle Your Outsourcing Project the Right Way

SAP recognizes the challenges its customers face as they outsource portions of their operations. A successful outsourcing project merits a lot of preparation and planning, but its success also relies on the caliber of the IT services provider with which a company partners. As a customer utilizing services, you want your service provider to embrace new technology and operating models, develop new offerings, help drive improvement, and reduce your costs — all without increasing business risks.

At the end of the day, SAP customers beginning an IT outsourcing project should look for providers that are certified by SAP. Make sure that you team up with an official SAP Outsourcing Partner, and ask to see their auditing results. With the SAP Outsourcing Certification Programs, SAP is providing its customers with a way to ensure high-quality standards for hosting, cloud, and application management services.

To learn more about the SAP Outsourcing

Certification Programs for partners, visit

Michael Ressemann ( is Vice President of Solutions and Services at SAP, and manages the Solutions and Services Division within SAP’s Business Unit Outsourcing and On-Demand Ecosystem. In his role, he is responsible for the Global Partner Hosting, Cloud Services, and Application Management Services Programs (SAP Outsourcing Certification Programs) at SAP.

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