At the 2020 Global Partner Summit, SAP showed off its new developments aimed at helping partners build innovative solutions for SAP customers. These announcements included updates to the SAP App Center, a progression aimed at helping partner solutions go to market, and the SAP Endorsed Apps initiative.

ASUG met with Tom Roberts, senior vice president of partner solution success at SAP, to follow up on these new programs and how they will benefit both partners and SAP customers. During the conversation, Roberts discussed how SAP's Partner Solution Progression framework fits into SAP’s Intelligent Enterprise, how partners are evolving, and the software company’s quest for innovative partner solutions.

ASUG: Can you share your perspective on how SAP partners are evolving?

om Roberts, Senior Vice President of Partner Solution Success, SAP

Tom: One of SAP’s biggest themes right now is next-generation partnering. It was all over the SAP Global Partner Summit. In the old world, we had partners that ran in three lanes: the global systems integrators, the value-added resellers, and then software partners. Today, our partners are changing and evolving because the business is changing and evolving. Many of them are becoming multifaceted. We’re seeing crossover from all partner types. That’s because the way software is built and extended in today’s world is changing. We’re seeing more industry-type knowledge or process-type knowledge that needs to be embedded within the systems integrators, codified, and moved into solutions.

Partners are becoming more multifaceted and creating more intellectual property (IP). That’s good for our customer base because it helps extend SAP solutions. SAP’s Intelligent Enterprise is, of course, a work in progress. It’s all of the cloud properties that SAP acquired—like SAP SuccessFactors and Qualtrics—coming together with SAP S/4HANA. Our partners and the next-gen partnering movement are helping build the Intelligent Enterprise on many different fronts.

ASUG: How does the SAP Endorsed Apps initiative fit in with the new updates announced for the SAP App Center and the SAP Partner Solution Progression?

Tom: We recognize that when you look at creating software, it’s all about life cycles. As software matures over time, it becomes more mainstream and has a higher probability of monetization. We’ve made some changes to the SAP App Center, including running it on SAP Commerce Cloud technology—the same technology the SAP Store runs on—and vastly improving the search capabilities. That gives our partners who are creating intellectual property better presence on the SAP App Center and allows them to showcase their solution much more strongly than they could in the past.

With partner solutions, everything starts with the SAP App Center. We’re always keeping an eye on how a solution matures in the marketplace. Enterprise applications take an average of five to 10 years to have any kind of real market traction because it takes a while for the solution itself to mature, get implemented, and receive positive production references in an enterprise environment. It’s not like the smartphone market where you can introduce an app and have millions of users in a month. Enterprise applications take much longer to take root because of the way enterprises implement applications in their landscapes. Companies are cautious.

So, SAP introduced a Partner Solution Progression journey to help partners. The first step is for a solution to become validated and then onboarded onto the SAP App Center. To receive validation, a solution must pass the application readiness check to ensure that it meets the minimum SAP requirements and compliance criteria. Having a solution validated and available on SAP App Center is a big moment for these partners, who are just getting into the game of creating IP.

Image source: SAP

A growing partner with a solution on SAP App Center can then earn its way into the Partner Spotlight program. It’s an earned tier, meaning solutions earn it by driving traction in the marketplace. We want the partners to aspire to be better. Spotlight solutions receive go-to-market resources from SAP to help with promotion. SAP looks at what’s happening across both the Validated and Spotlight tiers and extends invitations to certain solutions that are helping customers be most successful. That’s the SAP Endorsed Apps tier.

ASUG: What sorts of steps do SAP Endorsed Apps have to go through to receive this certification?

Tom: Premium certification takes the current certified process and adds a couple of very important things. First, SAP performs a security scan using a third-party vendor. We’ve created a public profile that’s shared with our partners. SAP has set an extremely high bar on this topic. SAP also checks in-production customer references to ensure that the solution has happy customers. Lastly, we do a review of their support logs.

ASUG: How should SAP customers be using the SAP App Center? Should they be looking at it when they’re trying to build a business case or when they’ve already determined what business problem they need to solve?

Tom: From a business case perspective, when customers are doing their work on their priorities in terms of what problems they’re trying to solve, I’d encourage them to use the SAP App Center as a resource to see what’s possible. Too often, people set a course and start marching to a project plan. I think what might benefit many customers is to have them look at some of the innovation that’s out there first.

ASUG: Could you explain what the SAP Solution Extensions program is and how customers can take advantage of that?

Tom: Today SAP does more than $1 billion annually in SAP Solution Extensions. These are third-party solutions that SAP takes to market, meaning we close the contracts directly with the customer and are selling these solutions directly to our customers. They are supported and effectively become an SAP offering.

I’m quite proud of it because we have many partners that have been in this program for a long period of time. Some for more than a decade. We realized we couldn’t have every single partner IP solution be an SAP Solution Extension. That’s why we created SAP Endorsed Apps. We wanted to take a lot of what was good about SAP Solution Extensions and make it a more flexible, modern category. The major difference is that you’re buying these directly from the partner themselves and SAP is supporting, screening, certifying, and raising the awareness inside our customer base that these solutions exist.

ASUG: What are some of the requests you consistently hear from your partners and how did you incorporate those into the SAP Endorsed Apps program?

Tom: One of the things that we encourage the partners to do is evaluate their presence on the SAP App Center. Do you have a page? Do you have a good listing? Are you already validated? Sometimes I’m approached by partners who haven’t done any of those prerequisites yet, but want more traction. Part of this journey is also to ground some of the partners and show them how to work with SAP successfully.

We often get asked how partners can move up within the tiers. The answer is let’s see where you’re at today, and then let’s help you work on those steps in the progression. That’s also the reason why we created these tiers so that we can set realistic goals for these partners and their solutions to grow with SAP.

Read more about the new changes to the SAP App Center and SAP's Endorsed App initiative. 

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