SME presence at TechEd to grow

Prasad Akella SAP

SAP SME marketing chief Prasad Askella

Small/medium enterprise (SME) made its first appearance at SAP TechEd this year, and according to the company’s global SME marketing lead, that presence is going to grow over the next few years (similar to the way it did with SAPPHIRE).

The SME business is SAP’s best kept secret, said Prasad Akella, vice president and head of global SME/SMB marketing at SAP. The traditional perception of the company is its core is in catering to the needs of large enterprises, but Akella noted that 78 per cent of SAP’s customers are in the SME space. To put that percentile figure in perspective, that’s more than 86,000 customers.

Additionally, SAP is making a commitment (which began at the beginning of calendar year 2011) to do 100 per cent of its SME business in North America through the channel. So far, so good, said Akella. With very few exceptions that arise due to a lack of channel partners in particular regions, SAP’s SME business is already 100 per cent channel.

The large enterprise is another story entirely, of course. SAP’s overall revenue plans are to have 40 per cent coming by way of the indirect channel by 2015. For the channel’s core competency in serving SME and SMB businesses, though, SAP is already meeting its goals and focusing on the channel.

So what’s the trouble? Simple. The market perception of SAP is it focuses on the large enterprise, and that’s making it difficult for channel partners to get their foot in the door with SME businesses. One of the ways SAP is fighting that perception is by the slow growth of its SME business practice at its IT conferences.

Over a four-year period, SAP grew its SME presence at SAPPHIRE until it became a big part of the show. This, the first year SME has played a role at TechEd, will mark the beginning of similar growth in SME presence at TechEd, Akella said. This year, 16 per cent of the breakout sessions are SME-focused.

Part of the reason for this push for SME at its conferences is to support the channel, Akella said. However, there is a difference in selling to a large enterprises and an SME or SMB. Although the IT needs don’t change, the conversation certainly does. Smaller businesses don’t care to hear about in-memory computing and the speeds and feeds of SAP’s technology; all they care about is the bottom line — what is it going to do for the customer’s business?

“We have to be crystal clear about what we’re giving them,” Akella said. The conversation has to be on a more pragmatic level, and any talk about technology has to be meaningful (and speeds and feeds aren’t going to cut it).

Good news, though. Business owners, in particular the younger, tech-savvy types, are buying into new technology earlier with the idea of growing into it and all of its benefits rather than waiting on making technology investments, Akella said. That means opportunities for the channel to get into start-up businesses early.

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