At the SAP partner summit, I filmed six videos with partners, plus a conference wrap featuring the enterprise stylings of Brian Sommer - a shoot that Den, who also produced the video series, has already analyzed.
The partners I interviewed span industries and specializations. But they share one vital characteristic: they are all finding ways of getting out in front of market forces - rather than coughing on fumes from behind.
Cloud was the dominant theme, sparked by genuine customer demand, not the desire to be fashionable. That's for the better, given that the definitions of cloud bandied about at the show would have flummoxed purists.
But it's not really about cloud as much as the 'nexus of forces', a branded phrase I have sworn to never use with a straight face. For partners, especially smaller ones running lean, you usually have to pick. Yes, cloud/mobile/analytics/collaboration may converge, but it depends on the use case and industry. What the customer needs dictates the technologies in play.
Let's check out a couple of partners that have figured that out, first a 'managed cloud' provider and then a HANA startup use case. For each one, I will pull out some takeaways as well as a wake-up call.
First up is a video with Tom Schwab, VP business development at HCL Technologies. The focal point of the video is HCL's early success with providing SAP applications as a "managed cloud" service, or MCaaS. I covered MCaaS in some detail in my summary post. For now, good to remember MCaaS is not necessarily about hosting HANA. In fact, HCL has made their hay on some of the biggest MCaaS deals to date with hosted Business Suite apps:
Tom shared two MCaaS HCL successes with revealing use cases. One was a company moving into the US market with multiple acquisitions. They wanted to move away from an array of legacy systems to one platform. They wanted SAP Business Suite apps but also additional application services (like BPO) bundled together and delivered as a service.
As Tom puts it:
That was a classic example of a net new customer looking at SAP and saying, 'We like the platform, but we also want to run the business services around SAP.' We were able to provide them an end‑to‑end service, start to finish.
The next HCL use case Tom shared was a customer reducing its SAP footprint due to corporate divestitures. They wanted to find a more efficient way to run this scaled-back landscape:
We were able to come in and, through the cancellation of that license and then a rebuy through HCL, we were able to save them significant dollars. Then we run the business services around the ongoing operations.
Even though HCL is far ahead of most SAP partners when it comes to bundling applications into cloud services, Tom relayed an anecdote with a CIO that should serve as a wake up to just how fast these changes are moving:
I've met with CIOs around the country who, one CIO from a very large organization told me he never wanted to buy a piece of licensed software ever again. The model moving forward has to be options for some type of cloud offering. Even to the point of a hybrid mix where some of these large customers still have that SAP license asset in‑house. But everything that they're buying from here on out is in the cloud.
Next up is HANA startup program graduate Alert Enterprise. CEO Jasvir Gill is no stranger to SAP startups. His company's real-time threat detection solutions have been embraced by customers. Since our last video with Alert Enterprise, a lot has happened.
The tragic Boston bombing resulted in a significant need for Alert Enterprise's capabilities, leading to some top-secret projects that we can't talk about in deep detail, but hopefully will result in keeping us all safer:
The agencies reaching out to Alert Enterprise did so because of passionate customer recommendations. Alert Enterprise didn't jump on HANA because it was cool. They did it because real-time threat detection matters to customers. With security front and center, Alert Enterprise still seeing plenty of cloud demand, albeit with some customers requiring on-premise deployments. Jasvir explains:
We have customers who want to do some things on‑premise, but there are a lot of customers who are saying security is not our core business, can somebody else handle it for us? They want solutions in the cloud. In some cases they want somebody else to even monitor. They want somebody else to provide the whole security of operation center. We provide both options so our software can be on‑premise or in‑cloud to meet our customers' requirements.
Jasvir challenged other partners and startups not to wait for SAP to bestow favor on them but to make a difference. If you build a track record, amplification happens:
I would say if [startups] have an exciting idea, I think they should implement it and create some success stories because SAP has so many partners. They won't have time to sell every product unless they find some exciting success stories. As startup founders, I think it's our responsibility to create an opportunity to show SAP how this could be useful and then, I think once you show that avenue, I think SAP's all over you. You'll sell yourself.
When it comes to terrorism, a wake-up call is not needed at this point. But if the savvy use of real-time solutions like HANA can further the shift from reaction to prevention, that's huge. As Jasvir says:
I think everybody found there were a lot of learnings from the Boston incident where there was a lot of information that came from people who were there - they sent video information. Some took pictures on their mobile devices. A lot of it helped address the problem. But I think the key question was, could it be mitigated? Could it be prevented? Could something be done beforehand to mitigate this incident? That is where the focus is.
If there was ever a comfort zone for ERP services firms, it's evaporated now. As Brian Sommer and I joked during our video wrap, 'golf course relationships just aren't what they used to be.' The new partner model is leaner, continuously re-earned by business impact. Techno-trends are just a means to those ends. On Sunday, I'll head to the Acumatica partner event in search of more stories.
Disclosure: SAP is a diginomica premier partner as of this writing. SAP paid for most of my travel and accommodations for the Miami event. SAP also paid for the startup video series where we first filmed Alert Enterprise.