Over the past few weeks we have been working with SAP to test some of their new products (innovations). We have done this before for different products/ solutions and I believe there is another Partner testing exercise due to take place in a couple of weeks. I am not at liberty to disclose the content of the new innovations and so therefore I won't be focusing on the technology but the process of Partner Testing for new products and solutions.
What's in it for SAP?
SAP has instigated the process of calling out to select Partners to participate in contributing to various testing phases for products and solutions that it plans to release. This is not a ramp-up program, this is working with the core solution before customers and most Partners get to see the functionality. The full scope of the product has been agreed by SAP, but there will be bugs in the solution and SAP benefits from the Partner feedback prior to moving forward.
The benefits for SAP are pretty simple...
The amount of internal testing can be slightly reduced by allowing non-SAP resources to perform the testing.
They benefit from a pair, or many pairs of outside eyes, to review the solution and identify issues and bugs that an internal team might not consider and therefore spot.
They also gain Partner involvement and when the product moves into Ramp-up through the release cycle SAPs know that they do not need to rely on internal SAP resources to assist with the delivery.
The risk for SAP is that the Partner they select does not have the right skill-set or knowledge in the product/ business process. The selection of t RIGHT partner for the individual product or solution is critical to ensuring SAP maximise their potential benefit with this process.
What's in it for the Partner?
As far as I am aware an SAP Partner cannot directly request to be part of product testing, they need to be invited. Most partners would be unaware that new functionality was being planned and implemented and therefore they would not be in a position to request to be part of the testing. The selection normally lies with the SAP Product Manager so the Partner would need an existing relationship with the Product Manager.
The Partner's main benefit is gaining insight before its competitors. Being the only Partner skilled in a new solution or products puts the Partner in a good place when customers require a Partner for an implementation. This could be a good way to acquire new customers or extra projects with a reduced sales effort as the leads will be coming direct from SAP as the customer would be part of their Ramp up program. As a Partner being able to provide some of your consultants to acquire skills ahead of their peers improves the attractiveness of the consultancy to the current team and new consultants.
The main issue a Partner may see is that some of the testing cycles SAP provides can be timely and require a few consultants to perform this. There is an associated cost to this, and they will be the responsibility of the Partner and not SAP. Previously SAP used to contribute to these costs but the new Partner Testing scheme has evolved in the favour of SAP. There are also no guarantees that there will be future work. The product may not make it to the ramp-up phase, it may be delayed, re-scoped or pulled. In these circumstances the Partner has lost potential revenue with nothing tangible in return.
My message to Partners is to think carefully before you sign up and be sure that the products or solutions you are testing sound like they are beneficial to customers in the future.
What's in it for the Customer?
Whilst the Partner testing is between SAP and the SAP Partner, customers will indirectly benefit. SAP has indicated that new functionality will be released quarterly and it feels that the volume of new solutions and products will increase. In turn there will be more solutions and products that COULD be beneficial to the customer.
By SAP allowing Partners to take place in the testing phases and therefore work with customers once the product has been released, this allows the customer to use a Partner and not just SAP. However the real benefit comes if everyone does their job properly. If SAP have a great product and select a great SAP Partner to work with them in the testing phase then the final solution or product will be a better product with less bugs and issues that sometimes occur with Ramp up solutions. Added to this the Partner may well have true subject matter experts relating to the product or the solution. This type of Partner may use their process and system knowledge to implement a solution that provides business benefits to the customer that may not be achievable without all of these key ingredients.