Under the leadership of Eric Duffaut, SAP’s President of Global Ecosystem and Channels, SAP is making unprecedented investments in its ecosystem — the technology, reselling, and services partnerships, communities, and co-innovation initiatives that lend value to customers’ SAP investments (see Figure 1). SAP is expanding the roles of partners across industries, solutions, market segments, and geographies. This new level of investment changes how SAP brings products to market and engages with customers.
Why has SAP given its ecosystem such high priority, and how does this heightened focus affect customers’ SAP investment strategies? This was the key question SAPinsider posed in a recent interview with Duffaut, who shared his insights on the subject.
- Services firms
- Technology vendors
- Software providers
- Value-added resellers
- SAP Developer Network (SDN)
- SAP Community Network (SCN)
- Business Process Expert (BPX)community
- SAP BusinessObjects community
- SAP University Alliances community
- SAP EcoHub
- SAP TechEd
- Collaborative initiatives that involve SAP, leading partners, and customers, and that advance and/or complement SAP solutions
||The SAP ecosystem at a glance
Q: Why is the ecosystem such a high priority for SAP, and how does this affect a customer’s SAP strategy?
A: When making decisions about how to optimize or further their investments in SAP software, customers want three things: choice, value, and innovation.
Customers want the flexibility to bring additional software and technologies into their business application landscape when they deem it appropriate. Consider your company’s current application landscape. It’s heterogeneous. It’s not a monolithic, single vendor environment. Clearly it’s in a company’s best interest to maintain this type of control. It’s the best guarantee that you have access to the best solutions at the best price.
I have never met a customer who wants to be locked into one vendor’s technology and applications stack. No single vendor can possibly cater to every industry or
every business and technology requirement, especially now, given the rate of innovation and the dynamics of the marketplace. But SAP, with its open ecosystem of partners, can. So, choice — being able to augment your SAP landscape with the solutions and services you consider appropriate — is clearly one essential advantage that an ecosystem delivers and one reason why I feel the ecosystem warrants significant investment by SAP.
Value is another advantage, and it has multiple dimensions. Customers want strong returns on their SAP investments; they want real business impact. Our ecosystem of partners offers access to in-depth expertise and knowledge of the specific industry, business, and regional context in which different customers operate. In this way, our partners become force multipliers. They amplify the business impact realized from customers’ SAP deployments. Customers also want fast returns on their SAP investments. SAP partners understand the importance of time-to-value for customers of all sizes: large, medium, and small. When companies tackle different initiatives, especially the strategic types of endeavors involving SAP investments, they want to know that they will always be able to quickly find the skills and expertise necessary for success. The beauty of a strong ecosystem is that it guarantees customers can always find — wherever they are — the skills and expertise needed to leverage their SAP investments and meet their strategic aims.
Finally, there is innovation, which looms large as a priority for our customers. Innovation of business models and practices is how companies grow and distance themselves from competitors, and it’s the very reason they leverage SAP solutions. Innovation is key at SAP as well. We are committed to co-innovating with our partners to enable our customers to run better in their areas of expertise, to adapt faster to new business models, and to make the right business decisions in real time.
Take business analytics, for example. It represents a key area of investment right now for SAP customers. Some of your readers may be familiar with SAP In-Memory Appliance (SAP HANA). It’s a technology platform that combines in-memory computing with an integrated database and calculation layer that can operate on massive quantities of real-time data and serve up near-instantaneous analytical results. SAP HANA analyzes huge volumes of data in seconds. In recent performance tests, SAP HANA demonstrated a query response time increase of 3,600 times, compared to traditional disk-based databases. Based on actual customer data, an analysis of customer contacts previously took two to three hours. Now, in-memory technology can reproduce the same analysis in two to three seconds.
SAP HANA is a great example of strong co-innovation between SAP and our technology partners. SAP worked in partnership with Intel, HP, IBM, Cisco, Fujitsu, and Dell when we created this platform. And SAP is working with independent software vendors and system integrators to develop the next generation of “killer apps” based on SAP HANA. For example, as part of a consumer packaged goods proof of concept, SAP HANA performed complex queries on over 450 billion records in just seconds. It has revolutionized planning, forecasting, and pricing exercises (to name a few) for customers. SAP HANA will transform the way our customers manage their businesses by providing them with the ability to analyze real-time data in ways they could not imagine before.
SAP HANA couldn’t have happened without the depth of commitment that exists among SAP and our partners. From an engineering perspective, it required that we have deep access to each other’s technologies, libraries, architects, and standards. We worked together as one team, for the benefit of our customers. And SAP HANA is just one example of co-innovation taking place across the ecosystem. There are many, many more examples, and still more to come.1
We all understand the strategic importance of IT and its contribution to a business’s growth, competitive stance, and day-to-day effectiveness. IT innovation isn’t the exclusive purview of one vendor. It can come from many avenues, and when best-in-class vendors collaborate to address customer challenges through co-innovation, the additional choice of solutions introduced to customers doesn’t produce merely linear increases in value and innovation derived from their SAP investments, but rather exponential gains. This is clearly a case in which the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.
Q: Do you view partners as a true extension of SAP? If so, how do you ensure SAP quality standards throughout the ecosystem?
A: Absolutely. We view partners as an extension of SAP’s capabilities. They provide complementary technology and vital services to help customers succeed, and they are a key sales force to help us reach and service more customers. We have a vast market that spans industries and countries, as well as small, midsize, and large enterprises. Through our partnerships, we optimize the way we cover this market, we enhance our customer touch points, and we capitalize on new opportunities that meet both SAP’s and our customers’ growth agendas.
Ensuring quality standards throughout our partner base starts with this core principle, which we hold inviolate: We feel ultimately accountable for customer satisfaction. This tenet governs the entire life cycle of our engagement with a partner. Partners are held to certain standards from the first time we engage with them. It’s about pedigree, quality of services and solutions, and the alacrity with which they hone their SAP skills. We care about that. Partner education, enablement, and ongoing certification are important priorities and areas of investment for SAP. Moreover, we embed SAP resources whenever needed for quality assurance and skills transfer.2
Q: Communities are also part of the SAP ecosystem. How do they affect a customer’s SAP investment strategy?
A: Consider the life cycle of an SAP investment: evaluation, deployment, optimization, and continuous improvement. Communities can help throughout this life cycle.3 Remember, it’s not just SAP and partners that offer insights. It’s other customers, too. Benefit from their experience and candor. Check the validity of claims that a partner makes. Leverage the knowledge of the community to help guide your decisions, and, as a result, reap higher returns on your investment. We have more than two million active members in our communities. They are a great source of value for our customers and for SAP itself.
1 To learn more about SAP’s co-innovation initiatives, see the article by Steve Graham in this April-June 2011 issue of SAPinsider. [back]
2 For more details about the benefits of SAP partnerships, see the article by Kevin Ichhpurani in this April-June 2011 issue of SAPinsider. [back]
3 To find out how SAP communities can positively affect your business, see the article by Mark Yolton in this April-June 2011 issue of SAPinsider. [back]