Many companies today, regardless of their size or industry, are finding themselves in need of guidance when it comes to tackling their biggest business challenges. With the help of its growing partner ecosystem, SAP is working to support customers in overcoming these issues by delivering the right solutions to the right people at the right time. This sense of collaboration has led to a “Partner First” approach at SAP, where partners — of which there are now over 15,000 that build, sell, service, and run SAP solutions — maintain the high levels of customer satisfaction, solution quality, and service delivery that SAP customers expect. Moreover, partners help SAP customers with additional skills, reach, and expertise, providing value above and beyond standard solutions.
The SAP Pinnacle Awards is SAP’s premier global partner recognition and award program presented annually to top partners in acknowledgement of their excellence in developing and expanding their partnership with SAP while also driving exceptional customer success. (For a list of winners and finalists from the 2017 SAP Pinnacle Awards, see Figure 1.) One example of the important dynamic between SAP and its partners is SAP’s global alliance with United VARs and its network of over 40 resellers that provides best-in-class expertise in more than 80 countries. Its members are SAP partners that are firmly anchored within the business networks of their respective countries and are working with more than 6,000 customers, providing innovative solutions and helping them maximize the value of their investments in SAP software.
For demonstrating outstanding abilities in developing innovative solutions, United VARs received a 2017 SAP Pinnacle Award for Special Recognition Partner of the Year, and one of its members, Seidor, was also awarded a 2017 SAP Pinnacle Award for SAP Business One Partner of the Year. SAP recently connected with Detlef Mehlmann, Managing Director of United VARs, to get his thoughts on the network’s recent achievements and future goals.
Q: What unique value does United VARs offer to SAP customers?
A: All United VARs partners — more than 40, currently — exchange know-how and experience. We are not one company defining one strategy and giving one direction. We are multiple companies from different markets, with different customers and different cultures. We are collecting and analyzing different opinions, fighting for our positions, and coming to one (or multiple) solutions.
Q: SAP has launched its digital innovation system, SAP Leonardo, to address emerging technology trends such as machine learning, blockchain, and the Internet of Things (IoT). But many seem to feel that these trends only apply to large companies. How have you seen small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) tackle these topics?
A: These topics aren’t only for large enterprises — SMEs must also take advantage of them if they want to stay competitive for the future. They are dealing with customers who expect services and products in these areas, or they are embedded in a supply chain with other companies and need to stay up to date on technology.
But while larger companies mostly investigate and define their strategy for themselves, smaller companies very often ask for advice. They know that there is urgency for change and they also know the headlines. They are missing preconfigured scenarios for their industry, clear how-to guidance, and affordable solutions. SAP partners and resellers need to look beyond implementations and focus on being reliable business advisors to customers.
United VARs has established six centers of excellence (CoEs) for these new technologies and products. Each CoE is headed by one partner, accompanied by SAP, but staffed with people from partners all over the world. The CoEs develop solutions for the United VARs community, but they also act as advisors for other partners facing critical situations at customer projects.
Q: Empathy in business can be a strong indicator of success. What are some ways that United VARs members empathize with customers, and how has that set United VARs apart?
A: Being in the same place as the customer, understanding their needs, and speaking their language are critical success factors. The organization covers more than 80 countries with highly experienced consultants, and the relevant people know each other from the annual United VARs meeting or at SAP events. There is a personal relationship, from the C-level to the operational level, and it makes dealing with potential conflicts easier when you know the negotiating partner well. There are also people working for United VARs directly, acting as moderators, advisors, or even solution experts. Our customers know that in the case of a conflict between two partners, there is always someone they can call.
Q: United VARs is part of an elite group of SAP Global Platinum Resellers. Currently you are covering all major regions, and you have more than 7,500 midmarket consultants. What is on the horizon for United VARs?
A: The first years of United VARs were all about regional expansion. After starting with six partners in Europe, our primary goal was to cover the major parts of the world as soon as possible. Today, with 40 partners in over 80 countries, we’re only looking at a few remaining countries to strengthen our network.
United VARs is changing from being a consulting network to being a platform provider for our members and customers. We are signing long-term agreements with solution partners for offerings that are not in the core business of our partners, but provide remarkable value to our customers. At SAPPHIRE NOW in Orlando this year, we launched United VARs Cloud Solution for SAP HANA with our strategic partner Symmetry. Companies can move from SAP ERP to SAP S/4HANA using a private cloud offered by United VARs and Symmetry, operating across multiple data centers in the US, Europe, and Asia.
The next big thing will be our Solution Marketplace, where we’ll feature all United VARs partners together, with over 100 industry solutions and over 500 add-ons for SAP systems — not to mention innumerable partner solutions in each country. The challenge is to make them visible in each corner of the world. The Solution Marketplace will come in 2018.
Q: United VARs received a 2017 SAP Pinnacle Award for Special Recognition Partner of the Year. Congratulations! What is the significance of this achievement for you?
A: This SAP Pinnacle Award gives a big push to our visibility on the market. If a mostly unknown actor wins an Academy Award, everyone knows him after the ceremony. An SAP Pinnacle Award is in some way the same for the SAP world. It is also a confirmation of the confidence SAP puts in our community. Rodolpho Cardenuto spoke to us while appointing United VARs as a Global Platinum Reseller of SAP and said that SAP will not only count our revenues, but expect us to help enable partners in the world to bring the cloud to their customers. And what could be better proof than an SAP Pinnacle Award 18 months later?
SAP is dedicated to working with both its partners and customers to provide cutting-edge technology and service to meet the evolving demands of business. By following the “Partner-First” approach, SAP is ensuring that customers receive the best experience possible by collaborating with innovative partners to address today’s top business challenges. The SAP Pinnacle Awards is a great opportunity to recognize and take stock of all the hard work and progress achieved by SAP partners — like Special Recognition Partner of the Year, United VARs — over the course of a year. For more information about the SAP Pinnacle Awards program, visit www.sap.com/pinnacle.