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SAP Aims For Higher Quality Customer Implementations Through Partners

A new partner delivery quality framework, along with free access to test and demonstration cloud software and a new “Endorsed Apps” designation for partners, top this week’s virtual SAP Global Partner Summit Online.

SAP is stepping up on several fronts the resources and assistance the company provides partners, including a new framework to help service and implementation partners deliver higher-quality SAP system installations, free access to cloud platforms for solution testing and demonstrations, and a new “Endorsed Apps” designation for applications built by top-tier development partners.

SAP also unveiled significant enhancements to the SAP App Center through which the company sells partner-developed applications.

The announcements Wednesday were part of the virtual SAP Global Partner Summit Online. The live summit, usually held in conjunction with the company’s Sapphire Conference in May, was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

[Related: SAP Channel Chief Karl Fahrbach: 2020 A Year Of Channel Execution, Expansion]

The latest enhancements to SAP’s partner offerings and services continue what the company calls its “Next-Generation Partnering” initiative that launched last year, shortly after Karl Fahrbach (pictured above) was named the software company’s chief partner officer.

“We believed that many of the programs we had, many of the engagements, could be improved, could be modernized, to help partners be more successful in the cloud,” Fahrbach said in a keynote in the virtual summit, in describing Next-Generation Partnering.

“That’s the main element of Next-Generation Partnering. It’s a journey, it’s a transformation, it is making sure that we can help our partners. Because SAP believes firmly that working with partners will make our customers more successful. Partners right now are at the front-and-center of the SAP strategy.”

The Global Partner Summit comes less than two months after SAP took a number of steps to aid its more than 21,000 channel partners amid the economic downturn sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic. That initiative included creating a virtual partner council to address partner needs, postponing partner program fees, offering partner program level protection and flexibility in using market development funds, and providing training and certification subsidies.

The latest initiatives demonstrate that SAP is “committed to listening to and collaborating with partners” and incorporating ideas from partners to boost sales – even in the current economic climate, said Mike Maiolo, CEO at Rizing, a Stamford, Conn.-based SAP consulting and implementation partner. “I think SAP is doing a good job in generating demand.”

Maiolo has even seen evidence that Christian Klein, who was named SAP’s co-CEO in October 2019 and became its sole CEO in April, is aware of the importance of the company’s channel partners. “He couldn’t be more outwardly supportive of the partner organization than he has been,” he said.

Topping the list of partner summit announcements is the new partner delivery quality framework that’s designed to ensure the quality and consistency of SAP software implementation projects undertaken by partners. The framework includes a set of standard processes, tools and reporting aids that help partners train and enable their employees, expand their consulting expertise, and monitor quality across projects, according to SAP.

Fahrbach said about 90 percent of SAP customer implementations are carried out by partners. “That tells you how important the quality of the services that our partners deliver is toward making our customers more successful.”

The partner delivery quality initiative also provides grants for consultant education and incentives for partner investments that emphasize customer success. SAP also will increase its investments in partner training and enablement and in support services for partner implementation projects.

“This is really about helping our service partners deliver higher quality implementations,” said John Scola, SAP global vice president of cloud channels and strategy, in an interview with CRN. “We think we can drive a significant step up in [partners’] consulting capabilities around their SAP solutions.”

The delivery quality initiative complements SAP’s more metrics-based approach to evaluating partners, said Rizing’s Maiolo, including customer success measures and the number of qualified SAP consultants a partner has.

SAP is also continuing its move away from charging partners for access to cloud platforms and applications for testing and demonstration purposes. Wednesday the company announced that it is providing qualified partners with free access to an integrated, pre-configured software demonstration environment to expedite sales conversations.

The new SAP Partner Demo Environment is available to all members of the SAP PartnerEdge program in the “Build,” “Sell,” and “Service” engagement models and to global strategic partners.

The demo environment includes some of the most popular scenarios or use cases for SAP applications, such as linking the Ariba, Concur and SuccessFactors cloud applications with SAP’s core S/4HANA ERP application set. Also included is a “demo concierge service” to help partners use the environment.

Starting July 1 SAP is also providing partners with 12 months of free access to SAP S/4HANA Cloud, the cloud edition of its enterprise ERP applications, and the Business ByDesign cloud application set for midmarket businesses and organizations, for test and demonstration purposes.

“As we look to develop a new set of software, that will be an attraction,” said Sanjay Shah, CEO of Vistex a Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based developer of applications that run with SAP ERP and SAP S/4HANA applications. Vistex was the winner of this year’s SAP Pinnacle Award for Solutions Extensions.

In the past partners had to purchase test and development licenses for SAP software, Shah noted. “Now we can develop new and enhanced software around SAP platforms at low cost or no cost. This announcement should be very well received.”

For partners who develop and sell software that complement and extend SAP’s products, the vendor has created a new, invitation-only designation called “Endorsed Apps.” Currently application development partners offer their software through the online SAP App Center application marketplace with some partners earning their way into the Partner Spotlight program.

The new Endorsed Apps designation establishes a top-tier of partner applications that are deemed to be more strategic to SAP, have been evaluated and tested by the company, and have demonstrated proven results, according to Scola. Endorsed Apps partners will enjoy tighter vendor-partner and co-marketing relationships with SAP, he said.

SAP unveiled what it called the Partner Solution Progression Framework which details the path partners can follow to bring applications to market and move beyond the basic support provided to SAP App Center participants to the Partner Spotlight and Endorsed Apps levels.

SAP also announced enhancements to the SAP App Center, launched three years ago, where SAP offers applications developed by ISV and solution provider partners that complement the vendor’s own software. Today the App Center has some 1,500 partner solutions.

The enhancements include a new “cockpit” partners can use to manage deal opportunities and a new dashboard to track the sales performance of their products. SAP has also updated the overall look and feel of the APP Center, including making it easier for customers to find the solutions they seek.

Shah at Vistex called SAP’s work with solution extension partners through the App Center “very unique” and praised the company’s most recent partner initiatives. “SAP is really doubling down on being partner friendly,” he said. “That’s why there has always been such a huge partner ecosystem around SAP.’

“To win in the experience economy, organizations have to continuously improve the core experiences of business – customer, product, employee and brand,” chief partner officer Fahrbach said of the latest partner initiatives. “With these investments, we are making good on our promise to lower the barriers for more partners to deliver the intelligent enterprise that will continue to improve and change our world.”

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