SAP Channel Chief Kevin Gilroy: Still Delivering 25% Growth
SAP’s Kevin Gilroy will celebrate three years at the software giant next month. As senior VP of global channels, Gilroy has overseen numerous channel partner program changes and enhancements at SAP. Those channel efforts have consistently delivered 25 percent (or more) quarter-over-quarter indirect sales growth. But Gilroy isn’t done with the tinkering and fine-tuning process. During a phone chat, Gilroy explained why SAP must continue to “recruit and attract people with channel DNA” into SAP, especially as the company focuses on five core partner priorities.
Gilroy certainly knows his way in and around the global IT channel — having previously held executive posts at Hewlett-Packard, OnForce and Arrow Electronics. Plus, he and the SAP team have recruited seasoned channel talent into the company over the past year or two. Key hires have included:
- Giovanni Di Filippo, VP, global channel head for database & technology and mobility);
- Steven Hagler, global VP, distribution and volume resell (formerly of HP);
- Carrie Maslen, VP, global channel development; and
- Meaghan Sullivan, VP, global channel marketing (also formerly of HP).
The result: SAP is balancing its “powerful” direct sales heritage with channel DNA, which has vastly reduced channel conflicts to “just a few. We now have clear swimming lanes for our partners. And that means we’ve been able to grow [channel sales] north of 25 percent quarter after quarter.”
To further fuel growth, Gilroy and his channel peers are focused on key opportunities like database, mobility, business analytics/big data, cloud and the core ERP business. ERP partners, he notes, have the opportunity to attach business analytics to just about every deal. Plus, every dollar of ERP software sold typically involves $8 in consulting and maintenance fees — areas where channel partners can thrive, he asserted.
Still, Gilroy realizes channel partners will need to offer on-premises, hybrid and cloud solutions. Channel partners that don’t blanket those areas won’t be relevant in 12 to 24 months, he predicted. But he also says cloud solutions are not necessarily cannibalizing on-premises sales.
One prime example: Partners that promote Business ByDesign — cloud ERP — are also increasing their on-premises revenue because those partners are achieving higher customer win rates. Show customers the options — both cloud and on-premises — and you’ll earn that customer’s trust and respect, Gilroy noted.
Gilroy also points to the Sybase business as an area of opportunity. Sure, The VAR Guy realizes Sybase offers plenty of mobile opportunities to partners. But Gilroy says partners should not overlook database opportunities as well, where many customers are seeking alternatives to Oracle, he asserted.
What are the challenges ahead? Gilroy points to talent — and the need to continually recruit the right channel experts into SAP, though he pointed multiple times to the progress the company has made in the past few years. Also, Gilroy wants to make sure SAP “reactivates” partners that have yet to discover SAP’s growing portfolio of solutions — including the SuccessFactors cloud platform and the forthcoming Ariba solution (which SAP announced plans to acquire in May 2012).
Still, SAP faces competition on all fronts. During Oracle OpenWorld later this month, it’s safe to expect Oracle to update its cloud-oriented channel partner strategy. The company has been working on a range of ISV (independent software vendor) ideas for the cloud and PaaS, which will likely surface at the conference. Meanwhile, Microsoft continues to enhance Dynamics CRM and ERP — both on-premises and in the cloud. And upstarts like NetSuite continually claim to be winning business from SAP’s installed base.
All that said, Gilroy and SAP seem to have channel momentum. It’s hard to argue with 25 percent-plus growth in the channel on such a consistent basis.