SAP and Accenture partner on analytics

The initial offering is Marketing Performance Solution, which combines SAP's HANA with Accenture analytics

Long-time partners SAP and Accenture are deepening their relationship with a new offering that calls for Accenture to serve as a single point of contact on projects involving SAP's HANA in-memory database platform and Accenture's own intellectual property.

Accenture will handle all contracts for software and services, which is a "a true differentiator that allows clients to focus on deployments of the solutions, either as a public or private cloud service," the companies said in the announcement on Thursday.

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Any hosting fees will also fall under a customer's contract with Accenture, according to the announcement.

While Accenture and SAP didn't word it this way, along with a simpler contract structure the new arrangement also gives customers a single "throat to choke," as the oft-used industry saying goes.

Initially, Accenture will sell a package aimed at chief marketing officers called Marketing Performance Solution. It combines Accenture's marketing analytics software with HANA, giving marketing executives the ability to analyze ongoing results from marketing campaigns as well as run simulations, with a user interface accessible from both desktop PCs and mobile devices, according to a statement.

Accenture is going to roll out more packages aimed at various verticals, although no details were announced Thursday.

SAP's deal with Accenture could be followed by similar ones with other large systems integrators.

"While [the Accenture deal] is not an exclusive arrangement, it does validate our strategy to co-innovate with our best partners in areas where they have unique expertise and use HANA as a platform to deliver smarter, faster and simpler solutions," SAP spokesman Jason Loesche said in a statement.

There's little doubt SAP, as well as systems integrators themselves, will seek more such partnerships, according to one industry observer.

"As the services markets move away from body shop time and materials work to delivering more IP and products, we'll be seeing more of these partnerships," said analyst Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research, via email on Thursday. "The lines between services and products are blurring as the services firms realize they have to build IP in order to sustain margins and deliver customer value."

However, customers will need to be careful they understand the financial arrangements between the vendors involved, he added. "Transparency will be key to building trust."

"The press release calls attention to the fact that Accenture will be the single point of contact for all software and services contracts," said analyst Frank Scavo, managing partner of IT consulting firm Strativa. "This is an indication of how complex the offering is. There is an SAP HANA license, hardware licenses, a hosting services contract, a contract for Accenture's BPO services, and licenses for any third-party software. So, SAP and Accenture have taken all this contract complexity away, by offering everything you need under a single Accenture contract."

As for the specific announcement with Accenture, it "also underlines the fact that SAP HANA, by itself, is really not a solution but an enabling technology," Scavo said. "The value really comes from the applications you build on top of HANA. By bundling SAP HANA with its marketing [business process outsourcing] offerings, Accenture allows the customer to focus on the application, not on the technology. For all the talk about CMOs having large IT budgets, they really don't want to manage technology. They want to focus on marketing."

However, as with any BPO service, "I would be concerned about being locked in to an unreasonable contract length, or not being able to cut back on the level of services if I find that they aren't delivering value," Scavo said. "I would encourage customers start small, then scale out based on success, rather than sign a contract up front for the whole enchilada."

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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