Expand +



SAP and IBM Partner to Provide Unique End-to-End Custom Solutions

by Klaus Weber and Joseph (Jay) Bellissimo | SAPinsider

April 1, 2013

As business become more complex with new innovations and changing demands, companies want to work with best-in-class providers but with one single point of contact to add some much-needed simplicity. Recognizing this need, SAP Custom Development and IBM launched an initiative that combines the strengths of both organizations to deliver a single, end-to-end, individualized solution to the customer through one point of accountability. Read this article to learn more about SAP and IBM’s end-to-end custom solutions.

IT solution development and implementation play a key role in supporting organizations as they roll out new business strategies that let them capture and maintain competitive advantage — particularly when those new strategies touch the heart of their business operations. And when we factor in the fast pace of technology change and a growing number of on-premise and on-device platforms, we realize just how complex business can be. In this environment, customers want to work with best-in-class providers, but often have the burden of managing multiple vendors with conflicting goals and methodologies. Customers want a single point of contact responsible for the delivery of a single, comprehensive solution that meets their specific business requirements.

Recognizing these broader trends, SAP Custom Development and IBM launched an initiative that combines the strengths of both organizations to deliver a single, end-to-end, individualized solution to the customer through one point of accountability. The initiative, which primarily targets large enterprises, combines the product-focused development expertise of the SAP Custom Development team with IBM’s industry-specific knowledge and program management expertise in an integrated approach, which provides a more simplified solution delivery. What makes this partnership different is that it is more than a contractual agreement — it extends to cover the alignment of the implementation and development methodologies, so that all parties involved approach the customer with a unified voice and goal.

While IBM serves as the customer’s primary contact and runs the program management office for engagements in this initiative, behind the scenes SAP and IBM remain focused on working collaboratively to develop and implement the custom solutions that SAP customers seek.

The Value of Custom Solutions

Each SAP customer has mission-critical processes that are unique to its own business proposition. In many cases, these unique processes and best practices are what differentiate a company from its competitors, so the company doesn’t want to change them dramatically to fit a standard IT framework and risk losing their value. For these companies, standard out-of-the-box functionality may not adequately support all of those specific business processes; a custom solution can extend the standard SAP product offering to support those processes, but still enable the customer to capitalize on its existing SAP investment.

In some cases, it involves mobilizing a solution. In other cases, it may be a new analytics tool specific to the customer’s industry niche. It’s something the customer wants SAP to develop and integrate into its existing landscape to ensure the solution aligns with SAP’s roadmap and release strategy. Plus, when SAP builds the solution, the customer has the option for SAP to support it in the same way that the mainstream offering is supported.

The Value of Industry Expertise

Even the most laser-focused solution in the world won’t meet a customer’s needs if it’s not designed and implemented to the customer’s specifications. And while this is true of any IT implementation, a customized solution’s implementation within a large organization requires more customer engagement than most. There are business processes to map before the solution is architected. There are business requirements to gather and monitor while the solution is being developed. And there are industry-specific transformational processes to guide and direct during and after the implementation. 

Few service providers have the breadth and experience to effectively manage these kinds of engagements, but longtime SAP partner IBM is one of them. Also, with the shift to front-office digitization, where technology is being used to transform sales, marketing, or customer service functions, clients are demanding new and innovative ways to promote customer engagement. IBM has industry-specific process knowledge in a number of areas, as well as experience implementing complex, end-to-end solutions with customers, from the goal-setting and blueprint phase through the implementation and testing phase.

Through this unique partner initiative, IBM helps SAP customers identify those transformative business opportunities and develops business-specific implementation strategies that support that change. The customer gains the benefit of IBM’s mature methodologies, while SAP Custom Development can focus on what it does best — developing the unique solution required to help the customer extend its SAP environment into new areas to gain competitive advantage.

The Value of Relationships

In truth, there are a myriad of reasons why a partnership like this on a major product can fail. Competing vendor interests and lack of communication can create confusion and distrust at the customer level. When vendors point fingers at each other, it’s ultimately the customer who loses.

Both SAP and IBM understand that a prerequisite to making projects like these successful is adequate governance. And that level of governance has to be set at the highest levels of an organization and flow straight through the project team. Before this partner initiative was launched, the highest levels of leadership at both SAP and IBM provided input and support, emphasizing that the goal must be customer value at all costs. That framework is what drives this partnership.

But governance on paper is only the beginning. At the ground level, it’s relationships that make a partnership successful. In this initiative, resources from SAP Custom Development and IBM work collaboratively on all phases of the engagement, with communication flowing at every step — from design, to development, to release of the solution. 

Because SAP and IBM have been working together for more than 20 years, there are already clear communication and delivery channels in place between the organizations. For example, each engagement has a steering committee consisting of representatives from both IBM and SAP. In fact, IBM has resources co-located with the SAP Custom Development team to ensure smooth, clear integration between functional and technical requirements from the projects.


At the end of the day, this innovative initiative is aimed at producing value for all parties involved. SAP broadens its relationship with customers by delivering a custom solution that extends their SAP landscape; IBM delivers the value of its business services to an expansive list of companies; and customers gain the end-to-end solution that meets their unique business needs without having to manage multiple vendor relationships.

For more information, visit and, or contact your SAP or IBM account representative.



Klaus Weber ( is the Executive Vice President of SAP Custom Development. In this role, he is responsible for delivering customer-specific solutions for unique, often mission-critical or competitively differentiating business processes.


Joseph (Jay) Bellissimo ( is the Managing Partner of IBM Global Business Services, responsible for IBM’s global SAP consulting practice. He manages the service line’s strategic direction, client relationships, and operations.


An email has been sent to:

More from SAPinsider


Please log in to post a comment.

No comments have been submitted on this article. Be the first to comment!