New worldwide channel chief at SAP

The consolidation of the global channel organization and the elevation of the channel chief position is a positive move for the SAP channel organization and partners

There's been a change in the channel leadership at enterprise software vendor SAP AG (NYSE: SAP) with the departure this week of Pat Hume, the worldwide channel chief who has led SAP's ongoing transformation from a direct-first company to one that is embracing the indirect go to market, particularly in the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) space.

In a statement, SAP confirmed that Hume, who held the title of senior vice-president, global indirect sales organization, has left the company for personal reasons. Her departure follows that of several other SAP executives in December including Singh Mecker, senior vice-president and head of SAP's global sales partners.

Fritz Neumeyer will move up from vice-president operations ecosystem to fill some of Hume's role as head of volume reseller and service partners. Hume's primary replacement however is SAP veteran Eric Duffaut, who ran SAP's global SME business and now be the worldwide channel chief. In a change from Hume's role, Duffaut will hold the title of president, global ecosystem and channel, reporting directly to SAP co-presidents Jim Hagemann Snabe and Bill McDermott.

In an interview with CDN, Kevin Gilroy, SAP's vice-president of channel sales for North America, said change happens all the time at major companies and the recent personnel changes at SAP are reflective of that. He sees the consolidation of the global channel organization under Duffaut and the elevation of the channel chief position to the president level as a positive for the SAP channel organization and SAP partners."This is extremely positive news because now channels have a seat at the table with a president's title, and all the horsepower and energy that goes with that position," said Gilroy. "We're very excited to be bringing all the channel assets together."

Gilroy said Duffaut has been a friend and advocate of the channel within SAP, and the organization is going to ride his leadership as it moves into 2011.

"Eric is a rock star. He's an extremely bright, talented guy. He's absolutely brilliant, and we're thrilled to death he's taking the channel lead," said Gilroy.

Hume, a channel veteran and former IBM Corp. and Avaya channel chief, joined SAP just over three years ago with a mandate to lead a channel transformation and turn the once direct-first business software vendor to one that puts the channel at its core.

Under her watch, SAP has overhauled its PartnerEdge partner program, allocated the small-and-medium-sized business market under $500 million as the channel's domain, and built a strong channel team to help change the company's DNA to one that puts the channel first.

"Pat has done a great job for us. She came in with a lot of energy, a lot of passion, and she put the channel in the right perspective at SAP," said Gilroy. "But we learned a long time ago that life goes on. She built a great team that she's leaving behind. And the roadmap for the channel being a core part of SAP is locked down, supported by our co-presidents and regional vice-presidents, and led by Duffaut at a global level."

The plan for 2011

SAP continues to recruit partners on a selective basis, said Gilroy, as interest from partners in working with SAP continues to grow. SAP is looking for partners with a strong balance sheet and strong marketing capability that will put more feet on the street.

That's also the case in Canada said Conrad Mandala, vice-president, SME for SAP Canada. The partner base in Canada grew dramatically last year, particularly on the Business Objects side, following the investments SAP has made in building a consistent, predictable and profitable framework for partners.

"We see the channel playing an increasingly relevant role, not just in SME but across the board," said Mandala.

James Alexander, senior vice-president with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group, said SAP's move to bring its SME and channel organizations together follows the industry trend of companies such as Microsoft and IBM, and shows the company is committed to the channel route to market in the SME space.

"They've certainly had a few false starts in that area over the last four to five years, but clearly now they're demonstrating that commitment to the channel as their exclusive way to sell to the mid-market," said Alexander. "It's important they do that because they badly need to increase their feet on the street and get into more deals. They get their fair share of business when they're in front of customers; it's getting in front of customers that's the challenge."

The most significant opportunity Mandala sees for partners is around business analytics. While it's a small part of SAP's revenue today, he's expecting to see a strong uptick in 2011.

"It has taken awhile for our legacy ERP VARs to pick up and invest in analytics, hire the people and get ready to go, but it's ramping-up dramatically. And our Business Objects partners are now feeling part of the ecosystem," said Mandala. "This is a huge growth area and a huge recruitment area for us."

And after launching Business ByDesign, its on-demand ERP offering for the mid-market, at Sapphire in May, Mandala confirmed the hosted offering will be available in Canada in the first quarter of 2011.

SAP's on-demand solution for the key mid-market space was been in development for some time, facing several delays before the U.S. launch last year. One limiting factor has been SAP's decision to host the offering in its own data centres.

"The product looks incredible and the feedback has been outstanding, and the uptick in volume in the U.S. in Q4 lead us to believe we need to open in Canada very quickly," said Mandala. "We'll leverage U.S. resources in the short-term. We're very bullish."

From an infrastructure perspective, to maintain quality, in the sort-term Mandala said SAP will continue to host ByDesign from its data centres in Germany. They are having discussions about other hosting models in the medium-term, but he said he's unable to offer specifics at this time.Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.

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