The Ecosystem strategy has become central to a lot of SAP’s partnership plans; tell me why it came about?
Zia Yusuf (ZY): SAP has been partnering for many years, primarily with SI partners. About three or four years ago, we looked at our product strategy, our corporate strategy and felt there needed to be much more partnership stress from an ecosystem perspective.
But honestly, we weren’t quite clear on what the ecosystem piece meant. What we have done over the past two or three years is a fair degree of restructuring and innovation in how SAP builds up what we call an integrated, customer-focused Ecosystem. The word ecosystem can be used in many different ways but this is how we use the term: Most importantly we have customers in the middle, which from a partner perspective is a little unusual. We made a decision that everything we do in our ecosystem has to ultimately benefit our customers, so let’s use that as the primary decision making vector for everything. We also have the traditional partner categories:
We have several hundred software partners, 1300 service partners, channel partners, technology partners, small start ups and so on. PartnerEdge is our structured mechanism for tiering them. In each of them, we have made signifi cant headway in terms of engagement, programs, structuring and what it means to SAP’s business.
On the other side, we have communities of innovation including the SAP Developer Network, which has 1.6 million people with 7000 posts per day [to the online developer portal]. [As part of its online Ecosystem SAP also has a Business Process Expert Community, a Business Objects Community, an Enterprise Services Community, Industry Standards, and an Industry Value Networks section.]
How many companies in Australia have you brought into the system and how many would you like to bring on?
ZY: They are two very different questions. Especially in this global world, all our large-sized services partners are already on-board. When you have software partners, in most cases the software is available globally. There would be a category of partners that are sourced from Australia, but that number I would have to check.
The EcoHub section was launched in October last year – what role does it play in the SAP community?
ZY: This is now our primary mechanism to allow customers to discover and purchase ultimately partners’ solutions. We do that very easily for our top 70-100 software partners, but historically it has been difficult to do it for the other 1400. So the Eco- Hub provides that mechanism. You have recently added solutions, most viewed, customer success stories, videos, and so on and so forth. If you go in deeper, you can find out how to review products, how to get on there as a customer and as a partner.
What do you hope to do next with the Ecosystem?
ZY: This is an organic thing. We are putting some structure around it so it is easy to understand. It is partly a reflection of what is happening in the real world in any case.
Do you see any influence from the global economic downturn on this strategy?
ZY: It is becoming more important. When things get tough, what do you do? You reach out to your friends and who are our friends in this case? It is our partners. So the level of activity with our partners wanting to engage SAP has had a shift upwards. In that sense, I would have been concerned if SAP did not have a robust Ecosystem in the way we set it up. It would be too late to build it now. Frankly, I wouldn’t have got the resources to build it today.
SAP has laid off people in Australia in recent weeks – are you looking to bring people on to help out with this strategy?
ZY: We are perfectly sized right now. We’ll add people as we need to – there are things like partner registering that add economic value. But these are business decisions that happen on a regular basis. Again the advantage of this is the problem is not solved by just throwing more people at it. Because of all these other pieces, it’s not as linear a relationship as it used to be.
Are there any specific initiatives you are doing to encourage partners to get involved at a local level?
ZY: There are obviously local service partners specific to Australia, smaller companies, and there are other partners. We will continue to add them on.
Australia is different from somewhere like Japan and ASEAN, but similar to somewhere like New Zealand. How do you see Australia as opposed to some of the other regions?
Elbert Bailey (EB): There are a couple differences. Number one is language. The good news is in Australia you don’t have a lot of the localisation issues you have in other places in Asia where we have signifi cant business. Of course, Japan is a very big market, China is a very big market, Korea, etcetera. But in those markets you have the localisation issues, not only translation but also cultural and other pieces that have to go into the software. The good thing about Australia is it is very similar in terms of being able to rollout things that we have in the US or Western Europe here very quickly. Australia and New Zealand, therefore, become a test bed for what we would like to rollout in the rest of Asia-Pacifi c and Japan.
The second thing is the feedback we get into our solutions and the product strategy and go-to-market strategy, begins here because of the maturity of the market. In terms of market maturity, we have the most mature market in the APJ [Asia-Pacifi c Japan] here in Australia.
You have both mentioned the global nature of the SAP business and also the localisation issues. Is there anything in particular that you feel you need to localise for Australian partners and customers?
EB: Absolutely, there are a couple of things. One is business process. Although business processes are similar to some other Western markets, of course between Australia and New Zealand there are a lot of differences, and our local business practices are executed according to local law, culture, interaction between companies and how companies are set-up. We do have that level of detail within our products and our go-to-market strategies to account for those differences. The second thing is, in the product themselves, you have differences like ZIP codes in the US and post codes here. Those subtle differences influence the user experience.