SAP simplifies, expands PartnerEdge

Daniel Ciechanower, vice president of global partner operations for the partner experience group at SAP

Daniel Ciechanower, vice president of global partner operations for the partner experience group at SAP

SAP has announced what it calls the most significant update in the ten-year history of its PartnerEdge partner program, one that aims to simplify the program for existing partners, and open new doors for partners that have to not to date worked with the software giant.

Although there have been changes to the company’s partner program since it was introduced in 2005, the structure of a decade ago no longer works in today’s market, said Daniel Ciechanower, vice president of global partner operations for the partner experience group at SAP. The program didn’t anticipate SAP or its partners delivering solutions via the cloud, and it was too complex.

“After all these years, and especially after the last three years, we needed to revamp the program completely,” Ciechanower told

The biggest change for existing partners is that all partner programs now roll up into the PartnerEdge program, which means that for the first time, the company will have a single partner contract that covers all of its products.

“Until [this launch], you could sign a partner contract with a single line of business [within SAP],” Ciechanower said. “That made it very complex for SAP to manage, and very complex for partners to manage. There were conflicts, it was costly, complex, and demanding in terms of the relationship.”

The ultimate goal is to truly get to a single contract, and Ciechanower said the company is the majority of the way there, although “we still have a few small contracts to integrate in the coming months.”

With the new contract, SAP has introduced a new process for partner and deal approvals that makes it electronic, which Ciechanower said will reduce the time for approvals from SAP from what could be a batter of weeks in some cases, to a 24-hour turnaround.

The company also realigned its partner tiers, with Silver, Gold and Platinum replacing existing Bronze, Silver, and Gold levels. All will still retain financial requirements of partners, but Platinum will be an “invitation-only” club of top global partners and consultants, a community currently numbered at about 50 partners around the world.

“These partners are very committed to SAP, and we want to make sure we have a team dedicated to serving them,” Ciechanower said. “Platinum is about creating a more personalized type of partnership where we’re more flexible in terms of benefits and policies.”

But the biggest change to the program is the introduction of what SAP calls the Open Ecosystem, a new and free level of the partner program to which any partner can apply, and get a “PartnerEdge lite” portal that includes self-service training, enablement and tools. The goal is to build volume in the SMB space with a group of partners that today don’t see themselves as good candidates for PartnerEdge.

“They see SAP as very complex,” Ciechanower said. “They’re already partnering with the Microsofts, the VMwares and the Ciscos, but they’re very careful about partnering with us. With Open Ecosystem, we want to have an open door for them so they can come in an try it without a big commitment, without disrupting their business.”

While Open will remain free to any partner that wants in, and will cover many of the company’s SMB-oriented solution, there will be a catch — partners will not be able to directly resell SAP software. Open members must either connect with a distributor or with an authorized reseller in a Master VAR type of model to resell products.

“We want you to learn from an existing partner, do two or three deals with an SAP VAR, and the next step, maybe, is to become a VAR yourself,” Ciechanower said. “Then, we start asking for some commitments, and you move to Silver.”

The distribution model is obvious, but the master VAR model is one that can be fraught with channel conflict. Still, SAP has done this kind of model in the past with a select number of partners, and says there’s an appetite amongst its existing channel to expand their volume by using Open partners as a way to find new business, and that those top partners will share a percentage of the SAP license deal, as well as carve out appropriate services for the Open partner to add, to make it all worthwhile for all involved.

Although the Open Ecosystem is just officially launching this month, the model has been in a pilot stage for the last few months, and Ciechanower said the company has already attracted 800 members through word-of-mouth. Now that the word is out and the gates are officially opened, there’s no way to tell exactly how big the ecosystem will grow.