Page 5 of 5
It hasn't all been smooth sailing, however. Last month the company reported significantly slower software sales growth in its first fiscal quarter with software license revenue in the Americas falling by 4 percent year-over-year. "Sales execution" problems in North America were to blame.
It was near that same time that Robert Courteau resigned as president of SAP North America and the company named Geraldine McBride as his replacement. McBride came to SAP from Dell where she most recently served as vice president of Dell Services for Asia Pacific and Japan. Before her Dell tenure she worked at SAP for 15 years in a number of senior executive and sales management roles.
Graham has been promoted to chief operating officer of SAP North America, reporting to McBride, but he retains overall responsibility for North American channel operations. Key channel management people who report to Graham are Mark Milford, national vice president, ecosystem partner group, who is responsible for managing VAR channels in North America; and Carolee Gearhart, global vice president, OEM, who oversees relationships with OEMs, systems integrators and other strategic partners.
But perhaps the biggest hurdle SAP is still working on is simply transforming itself into a company that knows how to work with the channel.
"Do I love the SAP channel partner program? Yes. But does it have its warts? Yes," Karen Mills, executive vice president at Idhasoft, an SAP reseller that works with the Business All-in-One and Business Objects product lines, told CRN in a meeting last December.
"The [channel] program is very good. It's the execution, it's the marketing. It starts with brand-awareness and SAP doesn't have the brand-awareness among small and midsize companies," said Mills, who sits on SAP's partner advisory council. Some of the remedy is simply devoting more resources to marketing to SMEs and publicizing SAP success stories in those markets, she said. But some of it is getting SAP's sales and marketing machinery that lie outside the partner program to buy into the channel concept.
"I would love to see more marketing-spend on the products for the small and midsize company markets," agrees Vision 33's Rooney, who also sits on the partner advisory council. And just dealing with a big company like SAP can be a challenge for even the company's top partners. "Sometimes getting things through the SAP machine takes work," notes Rooney, whose company has been named SAP Business One partner of the year multiple times.
As the channel accounts for an increasingly bigger percentage of SAP's sales, however, Rooney has seen the cultural mindset within the company slowly come around -- especially within the last two years.
"The DNA of a big corporation doesn't change overnight," he said. "I think they want to change that significantly. You have to remember that just a few years ago there was no channel at SAP."