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This is my first blog on the new SCN, and I really wish I had a more positive topic to post. And as always, this is strictly my personal opinion – not that of my employer (or past employers).

Pinnacle awards are a big deal in SAP land. It is SAP’s way to thank and recognize various partners every year. Some how, all the big partners will get some pinnacle award every year in some category, and they all use it to demonstrate their leadership in the market. Since I have worked for a few companies in my career, I know they all like to get one, since it is yet another differentiator in a crowded market. That being said, on a personal level – I am not sure how much a pinnacle award influences a buying decision – probably very little. Going by the snark fest on twitter  and other social media channels every time pinnacle awards are awarded, I assume there are many people who think this does not have a lot of meaning.

To be fair, Pinnacle awards are not the only awards that deserve such criticism – this is a widespread practice by all Enterprise Software Vendors.

The one time I thought Pinnacle award was given for a good reason was when SAP introduced it in 2010 for leadership in communities. Cap Gemini won the award that year. http://www.sap.com/partners/pinnacle-awards/2010-pinnacle-awards.epx

Now, we all know that SAP is one of the leading voices advocating “social” as the next wave in enterprise. SAP executives – CEOs and everyone all the way down the corporate hierarchy, have spoken all the right things about why community ( can you count how many times assorted SAP folks have shown a slide with 2 Million SCN members ) is the right way to go, and encouraging partners and customers to get active in SCN. In short, if you took them at face value – you would probably have thought SAP seriously considered community as a strategic asset, and were serious about their request to partners and customers to be a part of it. I know I did .

In 2011, IBM won the award for communities. http://www.sap.com/partners/pinnacle-awards/2011-pinnacle-awards.epx  . I was positively thrilled, and so were all my colleagues who were active in SAP community. In true community spirit, people who were already active in SAP community spread the word within the larger organization.

And then came the announcement of the 2012 Pinnacle Awards. http://www.sap.com/our-partners/pinnacle-award-winners.epx And guess what – there is NO category for communities. I was positive that this was just an oversight – and pinged Mark Yolton to confirm. To my dismay – Mark confirmed that there is no communities award for 2012. And he seemed as disappointed – if not more, than me. Mark also explained on twitter that  Eric Duffaut needed to reduce the number of #SAP Partner Pinnacle categories and #SCN fell out.https://twitter.com/#!/MarkYolton/status/184053629156728832 .  Eric is a very senior executive at SAP, and a well known leader. Here is his bio http://sme.news-sap.com/files/2011/07/Eric-Duffaut.pdf

I have no idea why Eric needed to reduce the categories . I can venture a guess on 2 potential reasons – 1. It is for budgetary reasons or 2. He did not see enough value in this category to do this in 2012. Hopefully Eric or someone else at SAP can explain the rationale to us.

I really hope there is a third reason why he made this decision – since budget for this award, although not cheap in absolute dollars for an individual, is not all that much considering the expense budget of a large corportation like SAP. And I especially hope it is not for the second reason – since that would cast some doubt on SAP’s true commitment to SAP community. Partners form a very large part of SCN, and not recognizing them for community leadership – especially after doing it for 2 years makes little sense in my opinion.

If there was an award in 2012, I have no idea who would have won it. I would of course have been very happy if IBM won it, but I would also have cheered with 100% sincerity if some one else won it. It is SAP’s call completely on what awards it wants to give out every year – but I would like to nudge them to reconsider their position on community award for 2012 and every year going forward.

Pinnacle Awards are not the only way to recognize community leadership – I get that. But stopping this award abruptly after 2 years – and without any explanation to the community from SAP leadership team – is not cool. I sure hope this is not the beginning of SAP losing interest in having partners play a significant role in the SAP community.

Am I the only one with this POV?

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9 Comments

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  1. Mark Yolton

    Hi Vijay:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this.  Yes, I am disappointed that communities were dropped as a Pinnacle category this year.  But I also understand (some of) the reasoning behind it. 

    To give some more history and context than I could on the 120 characters of Twitter: In years past (I think the Partner Pinnacle awards have been around for 4 or so years but I’ve lost count), there were a small number of categories. Each year, every “special interest group,” whether SMEs or channel partners or SIs or emerging markets or some other slice added another category.  These were very much well-deserving of attention and focus. 

    In part, these additional categories enabled not just the giant partners at the core (IBM, CapGemini, etc.) but also more niche players to be considered. In addition, these new categories also enabled us to better reflect the diversity of SAP’s business as we put focus on small-and-medium enterprises in addition to our large-customer history, the BRIC countries, individual industries, and things beyond ERP/business suite to also account for business analytics, and mobile, and so on. 

    As you might imagine, the awards dinner and venue expanded and expanded… from a small, exclusive, select group to a sprawling audience of perhaps 200 attendees.  The ceremony also extended from a nice, brisk, entertaining and enjoyable awards dinner to an hours-long, seemingly endless slog that required serious stamina to make it from beginning to end. 

    At last I checked we were approaching 35 categories.  That’s 3 nominated finalist companies for each category = 105 finalists x a few attendees from each (with some overlap and duplicates when a company was nominated in more than one slot), plus SAP execs and partner teams, and a few minutes per category recognized on stage… you get the picture that this thing went on for hours.  I believe that time and logistics, plus the “special-ness” that comes from a small exclusive event, and not budget were the key factors considered as issues.

    This year, Eric had to make some hard choices to reduce the sprawl and prioritize, for the good of the overall program and to focus it more narrowly on current priorities.  I believe he’s narrowed the categories significantly, and has done as good a job as can be done (winners and losers considered).  Unfortunately, Communities was one of those categories that fell off the bottom of the list.  I care about it because it’s an area I’m passionate about (as are you) and highly engaged in, but if I take the long / broad view, I understand and support his decision. Sure, I’d love to see communities back in the mix, but so would a couple-dozen other people who have their “pet project” as I do. 

    In the end, I don’t believe this is an indication that SAP (or Eric) doesn’t see the value of partner participation in SCN and social media. It’s certainly not an indication that SAP has lost appreciation or desire for leadership in this area – we’re doing more this year than ever before, and more broad-based than before.  I think it’s just a matter of cutting back on the inevitable sprawl of a long-running program which everyone wants to jump onto, and the need to prioritize and winnow and focus on the current “most critically important” while disappointing a few others (like us) who don’t make the cut.  We take the bitter pill on this one, but we win on others; all part of life and business, and in the big picture it’s more a “nice to have” than a “need to have” so I’m OK with it. 

    I hope that provides more context than I could before in a rush on Twitter.

    Thank you for you passion on this.  Maybe we’ll be back in the future, or have some other way to recognize stellar contributions in the community.

    Regards,

    Mark Yolton

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  2. Jon Reed

    Mark Yolton and Eric Duffaut are much more privy to the tough priorities and decisions behind the Pinnacles than I am, so anything I say here would have to be taken with the understanding that I don’t get some of these nuances.

    All I can say is that getting rid of the Pinnacle Community Award sends the wrong message. It’s a real shame because so many SAP partners have not totally figured out how to fully contribute to the community or see the impact of such involvement. This award was a great chance to call attention to community participation done the right way, not the tone deaf/broadcast/advertise way. If this award is no longer available to recognize community participation then hopefully some other even more prestigious award can be developed.

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    1. Thorsten Franz

      That was my first reaction as well – create another, even better award, to honor community leadership among partners. Award it at SAPPHIRENOW and make sure it gets the attention of partners by making an exclusive Snabe/McDermott dinner event out of it, with Jonathan Becher running the show and giving an insanely entertaining evening moderation.

      I agree very strongly with Jon’s point that the message needs to be sent out to those in the partner ecosystem that engagement in communities is valuable and recognized as such by SAP. Otherwise those who believe that community engagement is silly stuff that cannot and should not be taken seriously might win the upper hand in a struggle that is far from decided.

      Cheers,

      Thorsten

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    2. Greg Myers

      Isn’t that the Mentor program? I know that being a Mentor is not a reward, but it is recognition of Community contribution done right. Several of us are Partners, and that in and of itself is a differentiator for our company.

      Content is King. Wearing the Mentor shirt shows you get that concept.

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      1. Thorsten Franz

        I still think it makes sense to differentiate between awards and recognition towards individuals and companies. For example, most of my engagement as an SAP Mentor occurs in my spare time, on thoughts and topics that are mine, and as such I consider it a mostly personal hobby (although there are topics where the lines blur and I put my “AOK Systems” hat on). So in this case I feel that it is appropriate that the recognition is personal, and not towards AOK Systems.

        On the other hand, a company may have a corporate policy that encourages contributions to SCN; and while perhaps no individual from that company contributes enough to warrant a personal award, the sum total of these contribution – thanks to a smart, SCN-friendly policy – is really great and a significant contribution worth giving an award for.

        This is why I believe that it is good to have separate awards/recognition programs for individuals and companies, and don’t believe that one can substitute for the other.

        Cheers,

        Thorsten

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      2. Chris Kernaghan

        Greg,

        Capgemini support my Mentor endeavours but they are not the beneficiaries of me being a Mentor as that is a personal achievement. My content (sparse as it has been recently) is for me to give back to the community not Capgemini.

        I love working for Capgemini but I am not asked to contribute to the community on behalf of Capgemini and to be honest I probably would think hard about it if I was.

        The Pinnacle awards are hugely important, I know the pride that the Capgemini management have when we were awarded it last year. I would love to see the Community award reinstated as it is vitally important to SAP going forward as their aggressive time lines and product launches depends upon a strong community that requires participation from everyone. Friendly competition breeds strength and bonds which endure and provide us all with the products, relationships and communities we all want.

        Thanks

        Chris

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  3. Gregory Misiorek

    being the largest SI and customer of all, where does IBMSAPAlliance stand on this?

    one single voice may not be enough to get the attention required to look beyond “social media” hoopla feelings that some may get when looking at timelines.

    when nothing happens, individual recognition seems more appropriate than an award.

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  4. Krishnakumar Ramamoorthy

    Vijay

    I share your sentiments. One point that wasn’t explicitly called for and @Chris Kernaghan sort of alluded to it is ‘What’s in it for SIs”. If we check the other categories in the Pinnacle award, they all reflect an output of the core services rendered by SIs. Mastery in all these categories are achieved by doing what SIs do best, serve the clients. However, only the community award is driven by individuals. All of us know, working for SIs, there is a very thin line between what can be contributed to the community and what is intellectual property. SIs have a greater issue at hand regarding community contribution because what’s said in public needs to be vetted out thoroughly before it gets published. So, it is only natural that without any rewards attached, SIs are not going to be keen on their practitioners from contributing to the community and in most cases may not even reward them. Granted, as @Greg Myers said, mentor program is a way of rewarding contributors but you can only have 100 or so mentors at a time. That’s is not a sustainable reward route if we have to tap in to a huge skillset base SIs have.

    Bottom line, according to me, revoking the pinnacle award for community is not a good idea. Pinnacle award may not mean a lot to independent consultants but for SIs it means a lot. It means recognition as a firm and that counts in the external market place.

    As usual, these are just my opinions and not that of my employers.

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  5. Steve Graham

    Hi Vijay,

    I completely understand the concerns about not having a Pinnacle Award for Communities this year.  I think I can help shed some light on the thinking here. 

    As Mark mentioned, the team reviews the various award categories each year.  For 2012, we did reduce the number of award categories – but more importantly there was an emphasis on making sure the awards reflected our three strategic E&C ‘pillars’ (i.e. co-innovation, expanding routes to market, grow and scale services capacity).  We also thought it was important to start a shift where partner involvement in SCN should be considered as an important resource across different award categories.  So, rather than being a separate award it would be a factor that is taken into account to indicate leadership in specific award categories (i.e. these leaders should be active in the community). Admittedly, in 2012 community involvement wasn’t included as an explicit criteria in the nomination form, but considered among the material that partners sent to us.   Going forward, I believe we should work with SCN members to explore how we can include community leadership in the relevant award areas (e.g. Innovation).  I look forward to your thoughts on this.  I’d be happy to carry forward a proposal along these lines.   

    One final comment – – in 2012 we’re continuing a transformation of the Pinnacle Awards that started last year.  You’ll see a new logo and a new look, but more importantly we’re making changes in the awards program itself and the overall experience for partners.  One big change – we no longer focus on a single awards dinner at SAPPHIRE NOW, but instead invite winners to participate in our Leadership Forum.  There are many other changes underway, and we look forward to working with SCN members to reflect how leading partners are leveraging this resource to deliver results. 

    Regards,

    Steve

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