SAP counts most of the world’s largest companies among its customer base. That’s not the case with small and medium businesses (SMBs), where SAP is a minor player in a market with a host of localized vendors. If SAP is to grow, it’s likely to happen in that SMB space, and it sees cloud software as an opportunity to make inroads.

To build that SMB base, SAP is looking to get its partners on the cloud train with its SAP Cloud Accelerator program. With SAP Cloud Accelerator, SAP is offering to take over cloud-focused marketing for SAP partners that are “One hundred percent committed to the cloud,” says Karl Fahrbach, global head of channels at SAP.

He explains that SAP defines “one hundred percent committed” as a partner having 50% growth in its cloud business the year prior, with a plan for 50% growth the next year. SAP wants to take over the marketing for these firms because, Fahrbach says, they aren’t used to the pace of cloud business.

“Many of the partners we have are used to on-premise, which is a very different way of doing marketing when the business is booked with three or four projects a year,” Fahrbach explains. “Now with the cloud, it is about volume and the only way to do that is with modern marketing—digital marketing.”

What's in the SAP Cloud Accelerator Program?

The products involved in the SAP Cloud Accelerator program are SAP S/4HANA Cloud, SAP SuccessFactors, SAP Ariba, SAP Business ByDesign, and SAP’s customer engagement portfolio.

SAP ran a pilot program for SAP Cloud Accelerator in 2017 where it operated the cloud marketing department for 75 partners. Those businesses involved in the pilot saw twice the pipeline of potential customers and twice the sales of partners not in the program, Fahrbach says.

Partners interested in SAP Cloud Accelerator can reach out to their partner business manager, but SAP is also proactively looking for partners that are growing their cloud business and building packaged products.

Beyond Just Cloud Marketing

A budding cloud partner can’t rely on its marketing alone—it must be able to sell to the leads that marketing generates and, most importantly, help the customer successfully implement the software. There are already programs in place for those two areas, says Fahrbach.

On the sales side, SAP has Partner Sales Academy and for services it has Partner Services Academy. Both offer classes online and in-person to assist partners in executing their businesses. SAP also provides training for partners on how to provide packaged services—meaning the partners build their own intellectual property and sell them together with services and SAP products.

With SAP’s large partner ecosystem, it is a challenge for the vendor to make sure its partners are serving customers well. The SAP Cloud Accelerator program and partner academies are part of an overall strategy for cloud partners that includes an authorization process that vets partners on specific products.

“We want to make sure the partners are quality, and on top of that we want partners to play a key role in customer satisfaction and retention,” says Fahrbach. “It’s not about new names and new customers, but about retaining the ones we have.”

SAP Partners Take the Cloud Lead

With SAP’s focus on putting the partners at the center of its cloud business, both through programs like SAP Cloud Accelerator and by recruiting more than 500 new cloud-friendly partners in the last 18 months, the indirect cloud business (sales by partners) is now growing significantly higher than the direct cloud business (sales by SAP itself), according to Fahrbach. In previous years, both were growing at similar rates.

For ASUG members on the customer side, specifically SMBs, this means it is more likely that they will be booking their SAP cloud business through a partner. That also means partner selection becomes even more important, with less direct involvement from SAP during the purchase and implementation process.

As for ASUG members who are SAP partners, especially those that don’t have the know-how to build a cloud business, SAP Cloud Accelerator and the SAP academies offer a way to get into the cloud game. For those who are ready for the cloud, SAP is leaving the window open to grow that revenue stream.