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An Invitation to Innovation

How SAP’s Global Partner Operations Team Is Accelerating Next-Generation Growth

by Rodolpho Cardenuto | SAPinsider, Volume 15, Issue 4

October 1, 2014

As SAP evolves into “the cloud company powered by SAP HANA,” it is reshaping its partner business to drive more efficiency, momentum, success, and innovation among SAP employees, partners, and customers. In this interview, Rodolpho Cardenuto — head of SAP’s newly formed Global Partner Operations (GPO) organization — shares his thoughts about the role partners play in simplifying business and technology for SAP customers.


Rodolpho Cardenuto

Rodolpho Cardenuto
Global Partner Operations


Rodolpho Cardenuto stepped into the spotlight at SAPPHIRE NOW in May and asked, “Are you ready to make history?” The resounding “Yes!” from the audience marked a new beginning for SAP; the culmination of many months of planning by Cardenuto and others to reshape SAP’s partner business and usher in a new era of innovation powered by the SAP HANA platform and the unbridled creativity of partners.
Cardenuto’s question embodies the spirit of the newly formed Global Partner Operations (GPO), an organization designed to drive more efficiency, momentum, success, and innovation among SAP employees, partners, and customers. As the head of GPO, Cardenuto is responsible for the entire SAP partner ecosystem and related operations. 
In this interview, Cardenuto speaks about the role that SAP partners play in simplifying business and technology for customers and his organization’s role in driving success with the SAP HANA platform with innovative new solutions developed by the company’s 11,700-plus partners.




Q: SAP is focused on simplifying business and technology to improve people’s lives. How do partners help customers run simpler?

A: We’re looking at partnerships from the outside in so we can understand how different partners and different business models help simplify the customer experience. Customers shouldn’t have to be concerned about the details of agreements that we have with our partners. With the right relationships and agreements in place, we work with partners to tackle complexity and create a seamless customer experience. That’s our vision. 
Our managed-cloud-as-a-service partners are a great example of this. We work with partners that want to extend their offerings to their customers on a subscription basis through a private cloud. This approach allows customers of all sizes to utilize SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA, for example, in the cloud on a subscription basis, all from one provider, without needing to think about technology integration or separate billing systems.
The cloud is key. It opens the door wide to consider new and innovative business models that work well for partners and customers.1 For example, a customer can work with an SAP partner to pursue a hosted solution that is industry-specific, fast, and easy to implement. That is the crux of the simplification story.
I believe that simplicity is contagious. If we are simple, then partners and customers will be simple. Making it easier for them to work with SAP opens the door for new thinking and continued cycles of innovation. We’re starting a trend here.

Q: SAP CEO Bill McDermott has said that his vision for SAP is to be “the cloud company powered by SAP HANA.” How does Global Partner Operations (GPO) help achieve this goal?

A: If you look at the components of that phrase — the cloud company powered by SAP HANA — there are three important parts. One is “cloud,” one is “SAP HANA,” and the third is “powered by,” which is subtle. Think for a moment about what “powered by” means. It represents the engine that powers the SAP HANA platform, and you cannot drive a platform to success without partners. To construct a successful, vibrant platform, you need a strong partner ecosystem and network. Look at every successful platform, such as Windows, iPhone, or Android, and in each case you’ll find a solid partner ecosystem.
GPO plays two main roles:

  • First, we foster the ongoing development of a partner ecosystem that provides strong business skills and proven implementation capabilities to help customers succeed. This is core to our mission and supports the Global Customer Organization within SAP. 
  • Second is the increasingly important role of collaborating with partners that build on the SAP HANA platform.

Both roles are absolutely vital for us to achieve the SAP vision and help our customers achieve what was once impossible. I want GPO to be the engine of exponential growth for SAP, our partners, and our customers.


“I want Global Partner Operations to be the engine of exponential growth for SAP, our partners, and our customers.”

— Rodolpho Cardenuto, President, Global Partner Operations, SAP 

Q: Does this mean adding to the partner network, or is the way SAP approaches its partner network evolving?
A: It’s both. We’re always working with partners to evolve our approach depending on market needs, and sometimes the best decision is to introduce new partners into the ecosystem. We are working with both existing and new partners to develop the next generation of applications for SAP HANA and leverage the real-time speed and embedded analytics of the SAP HANA platform.2

Q: Are certain types of partners more relevant to what customers need today?

A: A vendor that could develop everything to satisfy all customer needs is a relic from a bygone era. Partners can no longer be thought of in the traditional silos of categories such as systems integrators (SIs), OEMs, distributors, and value-added resellers (VARs).

In the past, we and other vendors steered them into these defined categories. Now, with the focus on a next-generation platform, our customers are becoming partners. Pitney Bowes is a great example of a longtime SAP customer that is now engaging with us as a partner in new and innovative ways after embracing the concept of SAP as the cloud company powered by SAP HANA. Through the relationship, Pitney Bowes is developing and marketing new solutions that run on SAP HANA in areas ranging from asset management to customer loyalty.  
With the SAP HANA platform, partners can wear many different hats when they engage and interact with SAP and customers. The OEM business we have today, for example, will not be the OEM business we will have tomorrow. Right now, there are many OEM partners that are developing these next-generation products and applications on SAP HANA, and the continued growth of our software-as-a-service (SaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) products and services will contribute to this development cycle.
To step back for a moment and look at this holistically, this breadth of new products and services in the market opens up a model for business innovation that takes full advantage of the cloud, and changes the way we work with partners by adding dimensions of business and technical agility that just wasn’t possible in the past.

Q: What’s the bottom line for customers?

A: Customers are telling us that they are happy with this direction because ultimately it helps them better engage with partners. Customers of all sizes benefit from a simpler, more holistic approach that drives innovation through the SAP platforms.

This commitment to our partners, and the focus and drive to build the next-generation platform, are priorities for GPO and for all of SAP. The unique importance of a strong partner ecosystem is not just something that is nice to have; it is essential for us to build the next SAP that will continue to enable our customers to thrive.
My team knows that our mission is to be the cloud company powered by SAP HANA. We will create unprecedented value and drive exponential growth for customers and partners alike. The benefit can’t be just status quo improvement. It has to be big, and it has to deliver impact. We must work with our partners to find the right relationships that make business sense for our customers. By doing that, we will help simplify everything for our customers and the choices they make.

1 For details on how customers can benefit from collaborating with partners for their hybrid cloud deployments, see Jennifer Schulze’s article “Give the Business and IT Choice in the Cloud” in this October-December 2014 issue of SAPinsider. [back]

2 For details on how partners and customers are leveraging the SAP platforms to create a vibrant solutions ecosystem, see Diane Pereira’s article “Simply Transforming the Customer Experience” in this October-December 2014 issue of SAPinsider. [back]

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Rodolpho Cardenuto
Rodolpho Cardenuto

Global Channels and
General Business

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