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What did I learn from SAP in 10 years of partnership?


Early 2004, I joined the EMEA Alliance team at Novell following the acquisition of SUSE few months earlier. Given my background in software development of business applications, I was pleased to be responsible for Oracle alliance in EMEA and for SAP Alliance globally. For couple of years I engaged actively with Oracle team in EMEA, great people to work with, and we had very good initiatives to support customers and the ecosystem. The partnership with SAP, well established with SUSE on Linux side and Novell on the Identity and Access Management side, was strengthening slowly but surely.


Oracle « jette de l’huile sur le feu[1] » while SAP « cuit à feu doux[2] »

From 2005, Oracle started the acquisition spree (PeopleSoft, Oblix, Siebel, Thor Technologies, …) increasing portfolio competition with SAP, Novell, SUSE, and many other companies. Late 2006, Oracle announced their Oracle Enterprise Linux leaving zero space for go to market collaboration with Novell/SUSE given the overlap in identity management as well as Linux. In other word, Oracle did “jette de l’huile sur le feu” over many partnerships including Novell/SUSE. That is their right and freedom.

Meanwhile, partnership with SAP continued to grow slowly but surely. In 2007/2008 both companies announced expansion of partnership introducing joint solutions and services to customers. Today, 10 years later, I continue to experience great partnership with SAP and below what I learned:

1.  Honest transparency

With SAP, you know where you stand and where you will/can go in terms of partnership. Setting expectations is a common practice by SAP employees (I did work with hundreds of SAP employees) and most rewarding when your partner give you a briefing call a day before an announcement that impact you! Indeed, when SAP acquired MaXware in 2008, a competing identity management technology with Novell and others, I got a briefing call from SAP before the announcement. This leads to trustful partnership focusing on joint added value with zero politics.

2.  Customer focus

While everyone claim the customer focus goal, I experienced how SAP think partnership to add value to customers. The joint Linux enterprise agreement was driven by the need to turn 24×7 support experience seamless and one stop shop. The co-development of the Installation Wizard to deploy the full software stack (SAP and SUSE) to help customers and partners deploy solution faster. The HANA appliance powered by Intel and SUSE and delivered by global hardware vendors to enable customers with real-time insights to business. When we collaborate with SAP, the first question is “what is the benefit to customers? or what customer use cases such solution will address?”

3.  Co-innovation


My preferred given the on-going technical and business discussions. SAP is keen to drive innovation with partners to help customers run better. SUSE has been working closely with SAP since 1999. First to many technology enablement like Linux

support, SAP ACC, SAP on AWS, NetWeaver HA certification, Xen validation, Installation Wizard for SAP Business One HANA (20 minutes install), and more. Also, SUSE new program to support SAP channel partners for SAP Business One HANA (400 signed up in 9 months) was co-innovated by both teams.

4.  Thoughtful people or the win-win culture

Honest transparency, customer focus, and co-innovation can only happen through thoughtful people. I continue to enjoy the work with my SAP colleagues and many became friends. Majority of our discussions are around new ideas and improvement for existing customer solutions. We speak up openly and active thinking is the main focus to drive decisions. I was surprised to see my SAP colleague care’s about the benefit for SUSE in each project. It is the best partnership you can hope for where each party care about adding value to the other party.

[1] add fuel to the fire

[2] cooked over low heat

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