Top Gun 51 Profile: SAP’s Karl Fahrbach on Becoming First Chief Partner Officer
Fahrbach’s contributions to the channel earned him a place on the Channel Partners Top Gun 51 roster. Late last month, he was at the annual TechEd USA conference in Las Vegas, and just wrapped up a similar trip to the European TechEd in Barcelona. Between stops, Fahrbach spoke to Channel Futures about his new role as chief partner officer and the transformation SAP is undergoing with its partners.
Channel Futures: As far as I can recall, no major IT company in the channel has created a position called “chief partner officer.” How did that come about and what reaction have you seen to this?
Karl Fahrbach: Apparently, I’m one of the first chief channel partner officers of the industry. The feedback is very good from analysts and from other peers in the software industry. They all said it makes a lot of sense. There will be more and more chief partner officers, I’m sure, because companies are really looking into embracing the ecosystem. How this started, I was really part of the of the global partner organization at SAP, where I was the chief operating officer. And I was tasked as well by SAP’s executive board to work on a project to make the partner business even more relevant for SAP, which has very strong ambitions for the next five years.
CF: What are those ambitions?
KF: Actually, if you look at the four priorities, they are customer first, experience management, delivering the Intelligent Enterprise and the ecosystem of partners. The partner business has been elevated into the agenda of SAP. We told the partners we cannot be as successful without them and therefore the company and the executive board decided to elevate the head of the partner business, and we call it the chief partner officer. And it’s basically being the ambassador and the advocate for the SAP partners.
|We recently unveiled our “Top Gun 51,” a list of today’s channel executives who deserve recognition for building and executing programs in a way that drives partner, customer and supplier success.|
CF: How do some of the responsibilities of a chief partner officer transcend the role of say, a typical channel chief today?
KF: I was actually head of the channel business before becoming chief operating officer of the partner organization. The main difference is that when I was head of the channel business for SAP, I was looking mainly at the indirect business, where I had to come up with ways we can sell more with partners, expand more with partners and get more reach and scale and grow indirect revenue, and to have a better share of the indirect business. This scope has evolved. I continue to be measured on indirect. Now, I don’t look only at the indirect number; I look at the partner economy, which is the overall business that we can do with the partners together. We are looking at partners that can help us not only sell but can help us as well to improve customer satisfaction. Partners can help us renew contracts when we are in the cloud, partners can help us as well to get faster adoption when we sell a project or a cloud solution and beyond. The role of the partner for us at SAP has evolved. We don’t see the partners anymore as only indirect when selling or reselling through partners. We see partners playing a key role across the entire life cycle of the customer. We will measure every interaction and want, as well, to monetize with the partner together. And that’s why it’s an evolution of being responsible for an indirect number, to be responsible for the entire partner economy.
CF: Does this signify sort of a blurring of the lines between direct and indirect models?
KF: Yes, but more than that, it’s basically not looking at …