For some reason known only to the shuttle scheduling sadists, my ride to Frankfurt airport picked me up at dawn this morning for my 10 am flight. We arrived at the airport at 7.00am.
At the risk of generalising, most Germans tend to keep to themselves, and don’t often start conversations with strangers. Normally I doze to the airport. I got in the car this morning and to my surprise I received a friendly and cheery good morning from someone I’d never met.
It turns that Usman isn’t from Walldorf, but originally from Pakistan, he is the VP for global strategic partner programs, in the global eco-system and partner group (say that without taking a breath). We spent the time in the shuttle discussing SAP partnering, Shai’s departure and most importantly the world cup cricket. He predicts an Australian victory. I think South Africa are just coming right, but then, I’m biased.He also blagged me into the Delta lounge. Nice lounge but no wifi.
Partner management isn’t an easy job. It hard to measure impact exactly, yet indubitably our partners are a vital factor in SAP’s success. Some commentators are cynical about the relationship between SAP and the Big SI’s, and argue that we should be much firmer and beat them up more on implementation times etc. Maybe at times that is true but most of time our partners do a great job.
As the SAP strategy shifts though, then we need to bring the partners with us. If we are talking about ERP 2005, SOA and so on, and the partners are lurking in the old world of R/3, then we have a problem. I’m a big fan of the cluetrain when it comes to partner management. The more information, transparency and suppport we can give them, the better job they do. Usman explained that he had been talking to Intel, and there is a lot we can learn from them. They manage a more challenging partner ecosystem that we do, and do it really well.
The Hyperlinked organisation that is key to the cluetrain can apply equally to partners too. Partners aren’t just the folks who implement our software, often they are a key part of the sales, and vital to referencablity a couple of months or more importantly years later. More and more ISV partners are developing solutions on top of SAP. The ecosystem is broader and more complex than it was a few years ago, and we need to work hard to make it simple and easy for partners to work with us.
Co-innovation sounds like trendy mumbo-jumbo, but it isn’t. Gone are the days of SAP building software in a cave and then shipping it and hoping that partners and customers run with it. Von Hippel’s model of customer led innovation could be applied to partners too. I still think partnering is too complex and bureaucratic, but folks like Usman are working hard to simplify things.
Events like Sapphire and teched offer the partners an opportunity to get upto date, but I’d urge all partners to get actively involved in SDN. This is fast becoming the central station for SAP info. One of the questions I’d be asking if I was selecting a partner is are you active in SDN. I’d also like to see more partners getting involved with initiatives like Enterprise Services.
Sapphire is a great opportunity for us SAP folks to catch up with the partner community, and funny I’ve just done that having been through the bizarre Atlanta security process. In the queue for the Taxi I bumped into Mark Ingram. He used to be a product manager at SAP, but now is consulting in the SAP HR space. His firm is callederp-solutions and I plan to a podcast with him later this week. We will talk about what his customers doing with SAP HR software and I’ll be keen to find out more about what Mark has been upto since I last saw him out on the town in Heidelberg. They have built some cool add ons, so hopefully I can get a demo. He also mentioned a couple of juicy PeopleSoft conversions, so I’m all ears.
If any other SAP HR partners, colleagues or customers want to catch up with me, then just drop me a note or pop around to the bloggers corner. If there is stuff you’d like me to look into while I’m here, leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do.
I’m off to the convention centre shortly. Tonight is the bloggers dinner, so perhaps I’ll try out my podcasting skills there.