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Becoming an SF Partner (Not)

Do you ever have those days where you feel frustrated and ignored? Well sitting here today, I thought to myself, get it off your chest. Maybe I will feel better, maybe not, but at least I will have released some frustration by putting my thoughts into words.

The company I work for is an SAP Services Partner, specializing in HCM, mainly the basics of HR and experts (don’t really like using that word) in Australian payroll. We are not large and don’t have many clients but we are good at what we deliver and I believe our clients would agree with that. Geographically we only service a small area of Australia but when an opportunity presents itself outside of our “normal” area we will pursue it. Recently we established an AMS service and have one satisfied customer and are actively pursuing our second.

So when SAP purchased SuccessFactors (SF) we thought this would be an opportunity for our company to become engaged and open a new line of business that seemed to be in line with our present skills and knowledge. It would also allow us to engage with clients outside our area as SF tended to allow for remote work. This would fit within our AMS strategy. To the best of our knowledge there were few, if any, existing SF partners within Australia and so we headed off to an SF demo, together with a couple of other SAP HCM capable partners.

Liking what we saw (especially Australia being one of ten countries to have payroll in the cloud) we expressed interest in Employee Central and Payroll. The “bread and butter” of our existence. Surely we would be made partners and the successes would come for ourselves and SF.

After several emails and meetings we progressed no further. We were told:

we have key relationships in place already and have decided to put on hold any further plans to recruit additional partners, beyond the discussions already in play with global partners.  This is due to resource constraints locally and our ability to fully support the enablement and ramp up phases for new partners.”

Unfortunately for our company some of the other SAP HCM partners in our area have been given partnership status and are well on the road to being successful SF implementers, whilst we await the call up at some time in the future (possibly?). Probably our size held us back, also our restricted area of operation maybe, but we believe we could have added real value and we may never know.

These thoughts are my own and may or may not reflect the thoughts of the organisation I work for but I do feel a little better now. I welcome any comments/thoughts/experiences others may have.

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  • Good blog and in SuccessFactors defense they have had a rush of partner requests from virtually ever SAP HCM and larger consulting firms so it makes sense to focus on the bigger "fish" initially. The interesting thing is that in North America several very small niche SAP HCM SI's have gotten partnerships so it might be a region by region thing as well.

    Another angle is will there be a path for non-partners in the SuccessFactors world like there is in SAP HCM for highly experienced senior independent consultants

    On a side note hear is a view from a customer on the topic all aboard the successfactors "gravy" train.

    The good news is this blog will either escalate your partnership due to the exposure or but you on the black list for mentioning it 🙂

    • Always appreciate the big dogs leaving the little dogs some scraps that fall out of the bowl. However, if they are like my dog at home, there will be nothing left. Thanks for the comment John.

  • i will take the opposite view and says that sf messed up big time here. 79 partners (successconsulting). who on earth has 79 partners. oh yes i forgot sf 😛 . at least this time round it is harder. in the go go 90s you had to be able to spell SAP to be a partner. now you have to be able to spell SuccessFactors. 😉

  • Hi Paul,

    This is not just a problem specific to Australia. SuccessFactors simply aren't really geared up for the partner model and, quite franky, didn't anticipate such a rush of partners. The problem is partly SAP's, because they set BizX as their "go forward" solution for Talent Management and this means that many consultancies offering Talent Management services need to offer SuccessFactors BizX services. A lot of consultancies who aren't offering these services are also getting on board, just to make it more difficult for the specialists.

    Favouritism can also play a part; if the SuccessFactors regional manager was ex-SAP they might have their favourite partners who used to win-and-dine them when they were an SAP exec. I certainly know this is the case in a couple of territories.

    In one of the major SAP territories in Central Europe the partner manager rarely responds to emails and pulled out of an SAP event an hour or so before without sending anyone from SuccessFactors. This has caused widespread frustration and disappointment at SuccesFactors that has damaged their reputation within the SAP HCM community. This will no doubt cause concern for SAP in their "backyard".

    Just because you're a partner of SuccessFactors doesn't mean you'll get anything additional. SuccessFactors partnership is driven around your organization generating leads. If you generate leads (not opportunities) then SuccessFactors will support you - but I've heard lots of stories where they won't even supply information about their products unless there is a concrete lead. That is understandable in a way; trained partners should already be able to answer many questions, but SuccessFactors should understand that the SAP HCM market is embryonic in terms of SuccessFactors and they should support building it.

    Until SuccessFactors can become a more partner-orientated organization then these challenges are going to remain and it is going to become a bit of a lottery as to who gets partnership and who doesn't. In essence, this can make or break some organization's long-term plan of entering the SaaS market that SAP is moving towards.

    Best regards,


    • Thanks Luke for the comments.

      What success factors need to understand is organizations that specialize in SAP payroll are critical if they want to make a success of payroll in the cloud. It is, after all, SAP ERP payroll that we have been implementing since the mid 90's in Australia.

      I fully appreciate the skill set possibly required for SF Talent Managent but current SF partners would not know payroll unless they are also SAP partners. That is why we believe we can assist, and want to concentrate initially, on employee central and payroll.

      • Agreed - but SuccessFactors can only handle so much and with very few EC and Cloud Payroll implementations (nearly all of the interest I've seen is in the TM area) then there is breathing room for organizations like yourself.

        Ask yourself - what do you plan to get out of SuccessFactors partnership? Do you have interest from customers for EC or Cloud Payroll?

        The biggest problem right now is the organizations that have strong TM backgrounds and can't get partnerships. I've seen organizations with very little TM background getting SuccessFactors partnership, so there is also a problem with who SuccessFactors are partnering with.

        • You are right Luke. If I was in the TM area and not considered for partnership, my frustration would be through the roof.

          As for EC and Cloud Payroll, maybe 2013 will see interest grow, especially for the SMB market. We are currently dealing with a potential client on an older version of ERP and SaaS is probably the way forward for them rather than on premise upgrade. Hard to advise them when so little is known about EC and integration to Cloud Payroll.

          • I think you have time on your side and SuccessFactors need it to prepare themselves for additional partners. It does appear in some territories that they are stretched.

            I've heard from the US that SuccessFactors won't provide information unless the client will buy licenses within 2 quarters. If this is inherent across the organization then being a partner might make no difference.

            It is going to be an interesting future. There is a lot of cultural learning for both SAP and SuccessFactors.