Enterprise software giant SAP has announced a series of changes to its partner programs overnight, saying they would put partners at the centre of the company's drive to improve customer success.
A new broad area called "customer success" within SAP would move away from just sales targets but focus on taking care of the customer, SAP chief partner officer Karl Fahrbach told sister publication Reseller News from SAP's global partner summit.
Sales, parts of marketing, services, customer engagement and Fahrbach's partner team, would be under that umbrella as well.
"The role of the partners is evolving from an SAP perspective," Fahrbach said. "We don't see them any more as just a go-to-market element that helps us sell through indirect channels or as system integrators to help us implement the solutions we sell.
"Rather they play a key role in the entire lifecycle of the customer to make sure that they support us to make our customers successful."
The changes include a three-part partner delivery quality framework to enable partners to improve the services they deliver. The first component of that is project delivery quality, Fahrbach said. It provides a set of standard processes, tools and reporting aids to help partners train and enable their delivery resources and monitor quality across projects.
Within this, feedback loops will be established between partners, SAP and customers to ensure that for every project they know what is going right and what is going wrong, allowing SAP to help the partner ensure smooth delivery and quick adoption.
The second element is partner service quality, focusing on enablement to ensure partners remain current with the latest technologies through training and certification.
Grants for consultant education will be awarded as well as incentives for partner investments, emphasising customer success. Additionally, SAP will increase its own investment in partner learning and enablement, alongside providing services to support partner implementation projects and customer adoption. The third element is post-sale partner management as opposed to focusing on business development.
"What we didn't really invest a lot in was the services side of our partners," Fahrbach said. "All of our partners have a services delivery arm and now with the introduction of a new role they will be working hand-in-hand with a partner business manager that we call a partner delivery manager (PDM).
"We are going to make sure that we help the partners from a services perspective making sure as well that they are in line with the quality our customers are requiring."
Fahrbach said there would be a lot of benefits for partners in the initiative through best-in-class enablement and increased quality.
"We are going to ask them as well to have much deeper expertise when it comes to the SAP consultants, making sure they invest in certification and that we together drive a much stronger relationship with the customer," he said.
Customers can expect best-in-class implementation and a shorter time to value and go-live. Asked whether the changes would mean SAP would have a direct relationship with customers that it never had before, Fahrbach said SAP had that relationship anyway.
"When it comes to cloud we always have that relationship, the cloud is delivered by SAP so we have this relationship anyway," he said. "What that means is we are going to help our partners to manage that relationship better with our joint customers.
"It doesn't mean we are going to have more contact with the customer. It means we are going to help to drive our partners to have better contact as well with their customers to ensure they deliver on the quality. The initiative is more focused on the partner than on the customer."
Fahrbach said SAP was defining quality standards with partners and wanted to make the channel delivered on those standards.
"We want to make sure that we reward the partners accordingly when they deliver to those standards and obviously as well there will be consequence management attached to it," he said. "This is a change we have taken as well from a partner management perspective. In the past if you were a partner the more you sell the better partner you are. Now we are shifting from quantity only to quantity plus quality."
Fahrbach said to win in the "experience economy", organisations have to continuously improve the core experiences of business – customer, product, employee and brand.
“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.”
Ben Corser, senior vice president of channel and partners for SAP in Asia Pacific and Japan, added that the evolution of the vendor's partner go-to-market over the last 18 months had seen a real focus emerge on providing partner support and frameworks for delivery quality.
"It's important for the partners, but it's more important for the customers," Corser said. "We want the customers to go live on time and applying, adopting and using what they've acquired to deliver a business outcome.
"The framework behind these programs is designed specifically to do that, to make sure the partners have the tools and are being supported by SAP to achieve that outcome."
SAP also announced 12 months of free access for partners to test and demo systems on SAP S/4HANA Cloud. The offer will also be available on the SAP Business ByDesign solution for mid-market companies and subsidiaries of large enterprises, starting July 1.
SAP further unveiled enhancements to SAP App Centre, where customers can "discover, try and buy" partner apps based on SAP solutions. This is in addition to an SAP Endorsed Apps initiative, designed to help customers solve key business challenges.
“We’re bringing a whole new level of partner commitment — uniquely designed to improve experiences and drive success for our customers, while helping our partners innovate and monetize their apps, extensions and solutions,” said SAP executive board member Adaire Fox-Martin, head of customer success.
“As business moves at an ever-faster pace, we want to help partners deepen customer relationships and ensure they’re delivering the innovative solutions customers need, when they need them.”