“Wow – this is so different!” – SAP’s Partner Experience Initiative
It took a while and a lot of hard work, but a cross functional team at SAP overcame the obstacles to deliver a simplified and personalized portal experience for partners. The feedback from the audience confirms we were right in doing so or as one partner during this year’s field kick off meeting stated when articulating feedback on what is about to go-live first quarter of 2014: “Great Home page – so simple to scan. Clean.”
The site is phase one of the SAP Partner Experience project, aimed at dramatically improving web capabilities to support the partner ecosystem. “Unwavering persistence, Design Thinking, and superb cross-team collaboration produced a web experience that will make it easier for partners to manage and accelerate their business with SAP,” says Kathy Lopez, project co-lead and senior director for Partner Marketing and Communications. “It’s been a long journey, but it was worth every hour we put into it. We can’t wait to get this out to partners.”
“The project showcases the collaborative spirit at SAP at its best,” said Lenny Nisenzon, head of Social Collaboration Platform at SAP Internal IT, Business Innovation & Application Services. “Despite numerous challenges in getting the project initiated, the team has been able to develop a first rate product. We have achieved this great milestone that was 10 years in the making by having the right people with the right mindset involved at all levels!
The initiative started at SAPPHIRE 2011, when SAP Executive Board member Gerhard Oswald and E&C leadership recognized the partner website issue. It was clear that a new approach was needed. So they asked me and my former team to try and fix the issue. We used our knowledge company initiative as a platform and developed a big-picture concept. It offered the more holistic goal of optimizing knowledge transfer to partners. Suddenly, it was no longer just a new website. It was a whole program focused on information, learning and collaboration. It would empower partners to do more.
Design Thinking + User Research = Success
In early 2012, a Design Thinking workshop, led by our User Experience practice served as a fundamental starting point for harmonizing the many different lines of business. Experts from all parties collaborated on a single vision to reflect the major goals and pain points of SAP Partners. They began the process by first defining six scenarios for user value. After the workshop, the UX team, led by Vincent Matyi, worked with Global Partner Marketing and Communications to conduct extensive user research. They spoke with SAP partners to develop a set of user requirements, make design decisions, and build an interactive prototype. It should help others visualize the strategy and principals of the program. Our IT department embraced the project and set out to build the industry’s best partner website.
Meanwhile, more than 40 partners representing a wide range of sizes, geographies, and expertise, participated in usability testing. The objective was to validate the team’s approach and gain further insights. The process fueled even more enhancements and thereby momentum. The concept of Design Thinking enabled all business owners to focus on the primary goal – improving the experience of SAP Partners. “The research distilled from partners proved to be hugely valuable as a resource to help align viewpoints and establish common ground,” says Vincent.
We embarked on extensive beta testing that culminated in more than 100 hours of interviews. This validated our approach and provided insights that fed enhancements. The new partner website has not been created in isolation. We’ve taken broader SAP web standards and taxonomy into consideration to maintain a consistent web experience across all SAP online properties. A partner recently confirmed: “I was part of your 100 hours of interviews… you guys really came through…. I wasn’t sure if I was wasting my time again. Clearly I wasn’t”
Of course, it still wasn’t easy. The project team endured a roller coaster ride of setbacks – like anyone that is targeting major change – over the last two years including several rounds of cost cutting, scope reduction, and approval processes. But they kept focused and made progress step-by-step. This didn’t go unnoted as one partner pointed out: “I did see your presentation at the partner presentation and you did a terrific job. Having worked in Channels for Novell, IBM, Oracle and VMware I’m fully aware of the time and effort it takes to “herd the cats” and make sure you address all the “needs” you’ve done a really good job”
As 2014 has just started, all the years of hard work are about to culminate in the release of what could be for those involved the most dynamic and easy-to-use partner portal in the industry. “The new SAP Partner Website will help ensure that partners maximize their SAP relationship, satisfy customers and grow profits,” said Ira Simon, vice president of partner marketing and communications. “Phase One of the new site will shore up our platform and provide vast improvements for SAP and our partners. Phase two, later in 2014, is about ensuring we have the capabilities we need to really grow this dynamic business.”
Easy access to tools and resources
For everyone involved in the development of SAP PartnerEdge, the project’s completion serves as a reminder that determination, Design Thinking, and collaboration breed success. Soon, the users of our partners can log on to their own customized site and have easy access to the tools, resources and information they need based on their company’s relationship with SAP and their own individual profile.
“When I look back on all the challenges with this project, I cannot believe that we are this close to going live,” said Simone Keppler, project co-lead and senior strategic consultant “It’s the best experience I have ever had collaborating with colleagues from all across SAP.”