SAP Chief Partner Officer Fahrbach says his new role reflects partner focus away from selling and towards delivering customer satisfaction

Fahrbach also said that in comparison with the sales position held by his predecessor, Rodolpho Cardenuto, as SAP’s top channel official, he represents the entire global partner organization, and brings it to a higher level of importance within the company.

Karl Fahrbach, SAP’s first Chief Partner Officer

This week, SAP announced the appointment of Karl Fahrbach as the company’s first Chief Partner Officer. The job title is different from the President of SAP Global Partner Organization role that had been filled by Rodolpho Cardenuto when he was SAP’s global channel leader. Fahrbach also stressed that there’s much more here than a new name, as his new title both reflects the changing nature of SAPs partner ecosystem and its increased value to the company.

“I’ve been seeing how the market is changing and how fast this is evolving,” Fahrbach said. “It’s an amazing opportunity in front of us, and partners will play an instrumental role in helping SAP to deliver the intelligent enterprise, and make it more relevant to the end customers. In the cloud, there is only one metric for companies – customer success. We need to stop looking at partners from a selling perspective. To make sure customers get value out of our solutions, we went partners involved at  every step of the lifecycle, adding value.”

Fahrbach emphasized that this changed market requires a fundamentally different mindset in how SAP deals with partners.

“The programs of that past, including the ones which we had when we were on-prem, were based on sales,” he said. “The more you sell, the better a partner you are. Those days are gone. They are over. Selling is just a milestone. Now in the cloud, it’s about keeping the customer for life. So we reward our partners more for the quality of service they deliver, how happy customers are, their renewal rate. That is a cloud partnering model.”

Fahrbach laid out three elements of this cloud partnering model, which SAP terms their next-generation partnering strategy.

“First we grow the partner economy, because the opportunity is now double what it was before,” he said. “We make it happen by creating new commercial models, programs and engagement models, to make sure we can help partners be profitable.”

Next is the partner experience.

“We are obsessed about this,” Fahrbach stressed. “We don’t want partners to choose us only for our technology. We would like them to choose us because the experience is the best one. We want to make sure that we don’t put partners in boxes any more, by calling them VARs or SIs or MSPs.”

The third pillar is the platform orientation.

“The partner will play a key role there,” Fahrbach said. “We will not be asking for monetization in the short term. That will come afterwards. We want to make sure partners are properly enabled for end customers building on top of or platform.” SAP is well underway in building out this component of their strategy, with initiatives like Cloud Accelerator, which helps partners to run a marketing department, and the SAP-qualified partner-packaged solutions. The latter, announced a year ago, are designed to provide repeatable solution packages that partners differentiate with their own IP. Late last year, SAP announced that partners will now have free access to the SAP Cloud Platform for testing, demonstration and development licensing services, to help them develop own IP on top of SAP to provide more customized content for specific micro-verticals and local markets.

“Partners will play an even more critical role for us all to be successful,” Fahrbach emphasized. “We will create a win-win-win – for SAP, the partners, and our mutual customers.”

This world is all about the cloud, and Fahrbach’s appointment sends a signal to partners who have been slower in moving along the path to the cloud, who still have on-prem as a major part of their business.

“The message is very clear,” Fahrbach stated. “The cloud is massively overtaking the on-prem business. Customers are demanding cloud. Particularly in North America, that’s a reality. Partners need to adopt their business to that new reality. They have to juggle their business with these two bowls, which are very different. The message is that SAP will aid them in that transition.”

Fahrbach said that his appointment sends a further signal about the importance of this cloud-focused partner ecosystem within SAP’s total business strategy.

“In my old role, I was responsible for the go-to-market and compensation plans, and I managed the partner support, and owned the program,” Fahrbach said. “Now as Chief Partner Officer, I look at the entire SAP partner strategy. It’s the entire partner business I own as part of my new role. That new role is a signal to the market. Before, with Rodolpho, we had a president of the Global Partner Organization, which was part of sales. Now the big change is that for the first time ever, a Chief Partner Officer leads the entire global partner organization, which brings partners very high in the agenda of the company. The relevance of the partner business is recognized by the company with this model.”

Fahrbach also emphasized his own personal commitment to the channel business.

“In my entire 13 year career at SAP, I’ve always been part of this ecosystem – channel side, partner side, mid-market which is partner-led at SAP,” he said. “My DNA and heart is partner.”