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SAP Intelligent Enterprise Strategy: What It Means for Partners

SAP Chief Marketing Officer Alicia Tillman
SAP CEO Bill McDermott

SAP is marching forward with an ambitious branding and technology journey, striving to help partners and customers build so-called Intelligent Enterprises. The effort pushes far beyond traditional B2B initiatives -- where automation typically speeds engagements and unlocks or boosts corporate profits.

In SAP's case, the executive team -- from CEO Bill McDermott to Chief Marketing Officer Alicia Tillman and all of their lieutenants -- is striving to make the Intelligent Enterprise conversation far more personal. The idea: Tap into socially-conscious businesses that want to help consumers live better lives, while protecting or enhancing the planet along the way.

Of course, the effort also includes a healthy dose of new products and services. During the SAP Sapphire Now 2018 conference today in Orlando, the company introduced SAP C/4HANA and SAP HANA Data Management Suite. (We share more product details further down in the article.)

Putting A Human Face on Business

During his keynote this morning, McDermott described how humans and computers will work hand in hand in Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) scenarios to link consumers on the move with modern supply chains. But that's not all. McDermott sees an opportunity to align and lift up people, the planet and profits -- without harming any one of those three components.

Along the way, SAP also wants to become one of the world's 10 most valuable brands. Depending on whom you ask, the company currently ranks somewhere around 17 on that list. All of the companies in the current top 10 lists, by the way, are B2C companies. SAP wants to be the first B2B player on that list -- while further blurring the line between the B2B and B2C industries.

SAP’s Eric Friedrichsen

Of course, the Intelligent Enterprise effort requires lots of products, services and partners. Not by coincidence the company continues to lean hard on partners in the small and midsize enterprise (SME) markets -- which SAP also refers to as the "general business" (GB) sector.

The No. 1 business priority for SAP is serving customers, according to Eric Friedrichsen, senior VP and general manager, Mid-Market and Ecosystems, North America. To fulfill that priority, SAP needs to work with established partners that build intelligent enterprises, and new partners that truly understand "who they are -- and what they're good at," he adds. If a partner has know-how in a specific industry, SAP likely has an associated product or service to address a pain point in that industry, Friedrichsen asserts.

SAP Partners Go All In

Numerous partners are embracing the message. In fact, more than 2,000 partners attended SAP Global Partner Summit 2018 (held in conjunction with Sapphire Now) yesterday.

True believers include Bluefin Solutions (the Mindtree SAP practice) and itelligence (an SAP-centric solutions provider owned by NTT).

During separate meetings with ChannelE2E yesterday, both IT solutions providers described growing, thriving SAP-focused business practices that are helping customers address digital transformation initiatives.

Norbert Rotter, CEO, NTT DATA
Bluefin’s Brenton O’Callaghan

In Bluefin's case, the company is helping customers to consider data as an asset on the balance sheet, according to Brenton O'Callaghan, global head of SAP Leonardo at Bluefin.

itelligence, meanwhile, focuses purely on SAP customers and does not waiver from that strategy, according to CEO Norbert Rotter, and EVPs Steve Niesman and Uwe Bonhorst. Each time SAP acquires a new company, itelligence tends to study the acquisition and then builds or acquires practice expertise around that solution.

Well-known global systems integrators also are onboard. For instance, Accenture, Capgemini and Deloitte are striving to accelerate SAP S/4HANA Cloud deployments in the process manufacturing, discrete manufacturing and service industries. S/4HANA Cloud is the company's flagship ERP solution.

Channel Partner Evolution

Additional partners are on the move. Over the past decade, many SAP partners have successfully migrated from traditional IT consulting services and project revenue toward managed and cloud services, Marc Monday, VP of partner sales and ecosystem development, SAP, told ChannelE2E.

Additional shifts have also surfaced. For instance, partners can now start small with a specific SaaS module from Concur (expense management) or Successfactors (human capital management), and then expand into new areas or modules across the broader SAP platform, Monday notes.

Cisco’s Marc Monday
SAP’s Meaghan Sullivan

SAP continues to promote executives internally to better serve its partner ecosystem. Channel veteran Meaghan Sullivan recently moved to a new position, serving as Head of General Business and Global Channels at SAP -- essentially driving partner initiatives on a global scale. She previously was VP of global indirect marketing and SME at SAP.

For partners, Sullivan sees at least five years of hybrid cloud opportunities ahead. But somewhere beyond that point, the vast majority of customer workloads will run in the cloud, she predicted during a conversation with ChannelE2E yesterday. SAP's multi-cloud strategy will ensure that customers can tie together all that data, she adds.

Admittedly, SAP also needs to evolve its partner ecosystem to address non-IT customers -- like HR or marketing departments. Alex Atzberger, president of SAP Customer Experience, insists that ecosystem build-out is progressing well.

SAP C/4HANA and HANA Data Management Suite

Of course, more software products and cloud services are on the way. The two latest offerings include:

1. SAP C/4HANA: This offering features numerous software and cloud offerings -- across sales, marketing and customer service -- in a bid to give businesses a 360 degree view of customer engagements and management. It's an attempt to leapfrog Salesforce in the CRM sector and elsewhere.

According to the SAP announcement:

"The SAP C/4HANA portfolio includes SAP Marketing Cloud, SAP Commerce Cloud, SAP Service Cloud, SAP Customer Data Cloud (including the acquired Gigya solutions) and SAP Sales Cloud (including the acquired CallidusCloud solutions). Additionally, SAP Sales Cloud unites the SAP Hybris® Revenue Cloud solution and SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer (comprised of SAP Hybris Sales Cloud and SAP Hybris Service Cloud solutions), the company said.

These cloud solutions — formerly on the market under the SAP Hybris brand name — as well as SAP’s commerce and customer engagement organization are now consolidated under the SAP Customer Experience business unit to support a consistent brand experience."

During a Q&A session with media and analysts, McDermott essentially declared war on without mentioning the rival by name. "We will not waiver and we will not bend until we finally take over the CRM marketplace," McDermott said.

2. SAP HANA Data Management Suite: This offering ensures that can data can be "ingested, prepared and made enterprise relevant." The suite, SAP says, "enables enterprises to turn massive amounts of data — both structured and unstructured — into valuable, usable knowledge, no matter where it resides."

SAP: Riding the Cloud Amid Competition

Even before those offerings arrived, SAP appeared to be riding the cloud services wave rather than drowning beneath it. That's particularly impressive amid intense competition from entrenched rivals like Oracle and Salesforce, and upstarts like Workday.

For its recent Q1, SAP's new cloud booking rose 25 percent year-over-year in constant currency; and cloud subscriptions and support revenue jumped 31 percent. Within the  SME (small and midsize enterprise) sector -- again, known as General Business within SAP -- it sounds like a big chunk of that revenue now involves partners.

Overall, the SAP Cloud Platform is getting more than 1 billion hits per day, McDermott notes. And he believes that platform scale is a great springboard for partners to enter the market.

Stay Tuned: ChannelE2E has additional interviews with SAP executives scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. We will likely update this article with perspectives from those interviews later this week.

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.