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SAP also is putting more emphasis on leveraging the channel to help it boost sales in what the company has identified as its key growth areas: business analytics, mobile computing, data management and cloud computing. "One of the things we're trying to get accomplished this year [is] aggressively expanding the number of partners that we have in North America to help us increase our reach," Graham said in a teleconference for journalists and analysts last month.
Pointing to business analytics and mobility technologies SAP acquired when it bought Business Objects in 2008 and Sybase in 2010, respectively, Graham said: "We have an opportunity with our partner channel to really get into a whole set of industries where historically SAP has not been as dominant or played as much, and we can utilize these new technologies to get there."
And while SAP partners have largely been limited to SME customers, Graham made it clear that the vendor is recruiting partners with expertise in specific industries or solutions -- such as business analytics and mobile computing -- who can sell to enterprise customers. "We're working aggressively with the partner community to have them focus not only on the traditional SME space, but also work with us and sell into the enterprise space," he said.
One example of that is SAP's decision to give solution providers who work with the Business Objects business intelligence software to once again sell to enterprise-class customers, those with annual sales greater than $500 million. In the years after the acquisition, SAP largely restricted resellers to SME customers -- a move generally seen now as a mistake.
"Candidly, over the last couple of years, we've had some challenges in that area," Graham acknowledged in his recent press/analyst briefing. "We're going to give the business analytics partners the ability to sell into the enterprise space. When Business Objects ran their channel, the channel had the ability to sell into any size account, anytime, anywhere. And that was not necessarily the case with SAP over the last couple of years. We realize that if we're going to get that channel [to become] more vibrant with us and continue to grow and expand, we've got to give the channel partners the ability to work with us in that enterprise space."
"About three years ago, it was tough," said WCI's Carney, noting the restrictions SAP placed on reselling Business Objects software to big companies. While WCI could still offer its business intelligence and data warehousing services to big customers, the solution provider often found itself competing with SAP sales representatives who were selling software and services together.
But with the restrictions lifted, WCI is now co-selling with SAP on potentially big deals. "It's a great opportunity for us," Carney said.
SAP has put financial incentives and "compensation-neutral" policies in place to encourage its direct sales representatives to work with partners who specialize in business intelligence technology – a move that Graham said should help "re-invigorate the business analytics channel."