BOSTON - In a move to broaden its customer base, SAP AG has launched a new channel partner program aimed at small and medium-size businesses (SMBs). The program was unveiled at the company's Sapphire user event in Boston, which ends Thursday.
At the event, SAP board member and president of global field operations Léo Apotheker took a break in his meetings with customers and partners to talk with IDG News Service about the company's SMB channel activities, new value-based pricing model, rival Oracle and more.
IDGNS: Some say you're relatively late to enter the midmarket. Would you agree?
Apotheker: We became active in the midmarket long ago. In fact, of all the major applications software companies, we were the first to put a special emphasis on the midmarket -- with our acquisition of TopManage and the launch of our Business One model.
IDGNS: Why the new channel partner program now?
Apotheker: We had partner programs before. They were sufficient. Otherwise, we wouldn't have a 30 percent order entry in the midmarket. But we looked around and asked what we can do better. We hired Donna Troy, a channel expert. She came to the conclusion that we had to go to the next level. And that's what we are doing now.
IDGNS: So you're going to beef up your focus on SMBs?
Apotheker: Well, to be frank, we don't believe there is such a thing as an SMB. When you meet an entrepreneur, shake his hand and ask what he does in life, he'll never say he is the proud owner of an SMB. The term SMB is really just a name that quantifies the size of a market. Size implies a certain number of characteristics in terms of resources, capabilities and needs. What differentiates a third-tier auto manufacturer from a tier-one producer, for instance, are their unique processes. At the end of the day, however, SMBs have many of the same needs as large companies but on a much smaller scale. Many of them are also global players, with very sophisticated processes on their own scale. So we're scaling to their resources and treating them for what they are.
IDGNS: Some say SAP software is really designed for big companies. Would you agree?
Apotheker: Interesting question. We have this reputation. When we acquired the technology of Business One a few years ago, we had around 18,000 customers. There aren't 18,000 multinational companies, so that means we already had a presence in the midmarket prior to Business One. Our R/3 software already had many capabilities for midmarket companies. That said, we knew what we had to do to get better.
IDGNS: Your Enterprise Services Architecture (ESA) seems like something only big companies like the The Home Depot can implement.
Apotheker: I beg to disagree. ESA is very easy to implement. It has nothing to do with holistic client-server business applications. But what is challenging about ESA is the transition and migration. Users have to make sure data moves well, and they must avoid business interruption. This is absolutely essential for midsize companies. They can't afford to bring down their system for a week because they have to fix something or want to migrate to a new system.
IDGNS: So you're saying ESA is easy?