A navigation for the warehouse, a scanner for QR codes, a list of tasks: SAP has developed an app to make work in the warehouse more efficient. While the workers are on the road, the “Warehouse Operator” feeds the data about the delivery directly into the management system of the software manufacturer.
The clear design for use on the go, which users of complex SAP programs are probably wondering about, is no coincidence: it is the result of a partnership with the iPhone manufacturer Apple.
Customers who use apps for Apple devices to organize their logistics benefited from easy handling, said SAP CEO Christian Klein on Tuesday at the Sapphire customer conference in Orlando, Florida – “and that makes our solutions stronger”.
At the event, the software manufacturer traditionally does not present any big innovations, but a long list of small improvements to the product portfolio: from new functions for the sustainability platform to a project for the use of cryptocurrencies in the corporate context.
This year, it was particularly striking how strongly SAP management emphasized the importance of partnerships, says Holger Müller, an analyst at Constellation Research, the Handelsblatt. “This is not the approach of the ‘old’ SAP,” he concludes. In the past, the company had the ambition to develop everything itself – “this did not always succeed, and if it succeeded, it was not always good enough”.
23,000 Partners, from Accenture to Ecovadis
The role of partners is growing. The approximately 23,000 IT service providers, system integrators and software manufacturers advise companies, help with the introduction of the programs and develop extensions. They serve a considerable part of the approximately 440,000 customers and conclude more than 80 percent of all new contracts. The company alone cannot do that.
However, the relationship is currently changing: the partners should play a greater role in product development. “Partnerships enrich our portfolio and strengthen our value proposition,” said Klein.
There has been a deliberate change at SAP over the past year, said Julia White, who has been responsible for partnerships with the “Marketing and Solutions” Division of the Executive Board for one year.
The Group wants to consciously decide which products and functions it develops itself and where it offers the solutions of other companies. “I am committed to doing more with the ecosystem.“
Among the partners who were presented at Sapphire were consulting companies such as Accenture and McKinsey, IT providers such as Microsoft and IBM, but also the industrial group Siemens, the PC manufacturer Lenovo and the data supplier Ecovadis. And the projects range from the introduction of cloud services to the simplified set-up of logistics robots to the tracking of electronic waste.
Large SAP portfolio: “It’s not possible without focusing”
These changes do not come by chance. “One of the biggest challenges for SAP is to further develop all the many products,” says Holger Müller. “It’s not possible without focusing. That’s why partnerships are necessary,“ explained the analyst, who advises clients on IT projects for Constellation Research.
SAP has a broad portfolio: The Group develops software for finance, production, marketing and data analysis, as well as special solutions for 25 different industries, many of which require renewal. At the same time, he formulates the claim to depict business processes completely and consistently, for example from the factory to the customer.
The effort is gigantic. SAP CEO Klein therefore repeatedly emphasizes that a focus is necessary. Last year, for example, the Group spun off its banking and insurance business into the Fioneer joint venture.
In addition, software manufacturers such as SAP are dealing with increasingly complex problems. An example of sustainability: The measurement of CO2 emissions requires data on energy consumption in production and logistics, but also from suppliers and consumers. “Sustainability is a team sport,” Klein said. SAP’s approximately 40 partners also include the “who’s who” of the consulting industry.
But one thing is important in the partnerships, analyst Holger Müller emphasizes: even if the software manufacturer relinquishes responsibility for certain products, he still has to present concrete plans for product development, so-called roadmaps. “SAP has to tell customers: What comes when – and what doesn’t come?“