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SAP looking for ambitious channel growth

Vendor keen to ramp up revenues from partners over the next few years as it takes steps to increase support for the channel

SAP has ambitious plans for its UK channel with the business looking to double the contribution that comes from partners over the course of the next three years.

Laura Atkinson, chief partner officer for SAP UK & Ireland, is in the driving seat to deliver that expectation, but she is confident that the strategy being pursued by the vendor will create opportunities for its channel and gives chances for that target to be met.

Over the past year, SAP has been attempting to increase market share, improve partner satisfaction scores and strengthen its ecosystem.

Atkinson said there were four main pillars in that transformation process and the partner ecosystem had been identified as one of those, underlining just how seriously the firm’s senior management took the channel.

Some of the steps that have been taken to make life easier for partners have included centralising channel resources: “We certainly feel that we will give ourselves a much stronger platform for success in growing our partner ecosystem if we’re all in one place than if we’re all in multiple places.”

That decision to bring activities under a single banner has also given Atkinson a chance to look across the partner ecosystem to ensure there are not areas of over-population and other opportunities are not missed.

“We can look at where we’ve got a lot of strengths or look at where we’ve got some whitespace and we’ve got gaps to fill,” she added.

“We’ve got that whole kind of range of contribution that the partners can make to the UK business and we want to double it, so we’ve got really big ambitions for growth,” she said.

“I’m keen to make sure we’re fostering more partner-to-partner collaboration and innovation with our ecosystem”
Laura Atkinson, SAP UK & Ireland

To meet that ambition, the firm will be focusing on partner enablement, capacity and capability, with certifications playing their role and innovation through encouraging more development of more channel-led IP.

“I’m really clear on what we need to do over the next 12 months. We’ve got our very structured plan for growth in place and we know what we need to do in terms of driving up certifications,” she added. “We’re very clear about the work we need to do with the SAP services business to complement and enhance partner offerings and are very clear about what we need to do from an innovation perspective as well,” she said.

There is also Rise for the channel to get involved with, the SAP as-a-service offering that the vendor recently announced.

“We will work with our partner ecosystem really closely to help them transform [their customers],” she added. “There’s a lot of opportunity for our partners around advisory and implementation services, around the application management services, etc, to help our customers through on that journey.”

Atkinson is also keen to encourage more partner-to-partner collaboration across the ecosystem. Some of that is happening naturally and, in other cases, consolidation is also playing a role. A recent example is Accenture’s acquisition of SAP partner Edenhouse.

“One of the things that I’m really keen to do is make sure we’re fostering more partner-to-partner collaboration and innovation with our ecosystem,” she said. 

“It is important that our channel partners are still really focused on growth with our mid-market customers, because that’s a huge area for growth for us. But I think they can approach that in a different way,” she added.

Atkinson concluded by challenging the perception of SAP and restated the opportunities for growth that were out in the market for its partners.

“We’re an absolutely massive partner,” she added. “It’s about the whole customer experience piece and there’s so much opportunity in that part of the business for partners.”

A fresh challenge

Laura Atkinson was appointed as chief partner officer for SAP UK & Ireland, reporting to managing director Michiel Verhoeven, halfway through January.

She has plenty of channel and SAP experience, having worked at the vendor for the past four years, most recently as head of partners and alliances. Her CV stretches over two decades and includes 15 years at Microsoft UK, covering a variety of sales and partner management roles.

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