SAP channel chiefs plan enterprise, cloud moves with partners

Kevin Gilroy and John Graham

SAP worldwide channel chief Kevin Gilroy (left) and his North American counterpart John Graham (right)

As new leaders move into roles atop North American and worldwide channel operations, SAP is planning a major strategy shift to cut the channel in on its large enterprise customer base.

The software giant recently promoted North American channel chief Kevin Gilroy to take the reins as worldwide channel chief, and appointed John Graham, senior vice president of volume markets and public sector for North America as its new North American channel chief.

The software vendor has stated its goal to move 40 per cent of its business through the channel by 2015. Today, that number sits at about 33 per cent, Gilroy said, meaning the channel is to pick up about seven per cent of “a rapidly growing business” over the next few years.

A big part of that gain will come from the company’s expansion of its channel into the enterprise space, Gilroy said.

The company will introduce a framework that will “allow the channel to sell within our large enterprise space in a very prescriptive, defined way,” Gilroy said. That introduction will happen in the first half of 2012.

“The big thing we’d like to do is continue to build strength in that SME channel, and take that into the enterprise space with strategic VARs,” Graham said.

There’s a partner-led lesson that SAP is learning in its engagement with its largest system integrators, particularly as cloud computing continues to gather awareness and momentum. Graham said that large global SIs like IBM and CSC are bringing SAP and its cloud-based offerings into situations that wouldn’t have been SAP-friendly before, getting SAP into conversations it wouldn’t have been entered into before, particularly in the public sector sphere. It will no doubt look to duplicate that process with its channel partners in the large enterprise market.

With its Business On Demand products and an increasing number of cloud-based versions of its wares, the company is increasingly betting on the cloud as a growth engine. And Gilroy said that at this point, “every channel partner in the world needs to have both on-premise and in-cloud solutions” to bring to market.

“Cloud is sexy, on-demand is hot,” Gilroy said. “Selling cloud is an epochal change in technology, and it’s a real door opener for partners who get it. Partners who figure it out are winning.”

Gilroy outlined a number of major initiative that SAP has going on in the channel, or will soon be debuting to its partners:

  • The soon-to-launch enterprise strategy;
  • Building channels for newer acquisitions, including its purchase of database vendor Sybase and its recently-completed buy of HR software provider SuccessFactors;
  • Building out a broader channel for mobility, database and cloud offerings and making sure partners know “it’s much broader than just ByDesign;”
  • Strengthening its channel efforts around Business Analytics, where the channel “is doing great but can do more” and the company is targeting “selective recruitment around the globe;” and finally
  • As Gilroy puts it “becoming a very predictable, channel-driven company.” “We want to make it delightful for partners to grow with us,” Gilroy said.

All of those are worldwide in nature, but also applicable closer to home in Canada.

“[SAP] Canada had a fabulous year in 2011 and has been on the cutting edge of channel architecture and channel strategy for us,” Gilroy said. “But there’s a lot more work to do.”

Both executives have their plans for the next little while pretty clear. Graham said his goal is to continue the plans put in place by Gilroy during his stint atop North American channels, and to expand those plans into the enterprise market later in the year.

For Gilroy, the priority is on getting to know SAP’s markets outside of North America. As he puts it, he’s in the “listening and learning phase” with the company’s business and partners in EMEA and Asia Pacific, and particularly in the growing BRIC nations. “I’m listening, I’m learning, and I’m formulating the plan to build out the [ecosystems] team globally,” he said.