Top Gun 51 Profile: SAP’s Karl Fahrbach on Becoming First Chief Partner Officer
… the economic model. So if you are coming from a very successful on-premises base, and then you start offering cloud services and cloud solutions to your customers, and keep the same structure and the same ways of marketing with the same sales teams and the presales standards, you will not be successful. Because the cost of selling on premises is much higher than the cost of selling in cloud. You need to have your costs very lean from a sales perspective and a marketing perspective. The second opportunity is the whole area of innovation. Customers are more demanding than ever. They expect to receive value on a constant basis and are expecting that the vendors are really innovating all the time. The only way that the partners can really be super relevant for the end customers is to invest in building IP and delivering value to their customers. In terms of innovation, the more relevant they can be for their customers, and the more value customers get, then the longer the relationship between the customer and the partners will be.
CF: Do you have any predictions on how ecosystems will evolve in the coming years, or will transition or transform?
KF: I see a huge evolution. If I look at where they are today, or even more precisely, yesterday, there were technology companies that were providing technology services to the IT world, and the customer was consuming IT in big chunks. And then it took them sometimes years to digest. Right now, I see an ecosystem that will be much more oriented toward business outcomes. It will be much more specialized, and we will have a lot of niche players. I don’t see one vendor or one system integrator working with one customer on a specific project. I see the customer in the center, as I look at the entire life cycle. And then I see a lot of partners dealing with that end customer across the life cycle of the customer, adding value all the time. I think they will have more players with a very different profile, much more business-oriented, that would be niche players sometimes — super specialized, adding a lot of value, and they will not only be talking to the IT departments, they will be talking as well to the different businesses. So that’s the way I see the ecosystem evolving.
CF: How does partner-to-partner networking fit into that evolving ecosystem?
KF: I look at those smaller niche players and then I look at the success of the customer. For example, here at SAP we want to deliver the “intelligent enterprise,” which is basically running the enterprise intelligently for them end to end. We look at the different processes of the company. And all of that should be within an integrated SAP suite. Let’s imagine a partner who is specialized on Ariba and has a very specific procurement solution that it is offering to the market. The customers will not buy procurement solutions anymore. Customers will not buy a payroll solution anymore. Customers will want to solve end-to-end processes. Let’s look at the human resources hire-to-retire example. This involves many different systems, many different processes. And the partners in many cases will not be able to deliver all of them. So that means that we really see a partner-to-partner collaboration, a key element right to make sure that we deliver value to the customers.
CF: What is the state of tools that are in place to enable that? And how do you see that evolving?
KF: One big element for partner-to-partner collaboration is the SAP App Center, a place that our partners actually can list and publish the IP that they have built. Once they build an application, they go to the App Center, they can publish it, they can upload it, where partners and customers can find it.