Skilling the channel

SAP MENA has moved to boost its presence in the region after it revealed that it was investing $450m over the next four years in the Middle East and North Africa. The vendor says it is also preparing to open partner centres of excellence as a way of improving partner skills and interchange with SAP.

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Skilling the channel
By  Mark Sutton Published  June 1, 2012

SAP MENA has moved to boost its presence in the region after it revealed that it was investing $450m over the next four years in the Middle East and North Africa. The vendor says it is also preparing to open partner centres of excellence as a way of improving partner skills and interchange with SAP.

SAP is set to open partner centres of excellence in all major countries across the MENA region, the company has announced.

The move is part of the $450 million investment in the region announced earlier this month, a ‘significant part’ of which will be invested in channel growth for the region, according to Eric Duffaut, president of global ecosystems and channels at SAP.

The initiative is one of the few bold moves that SAP MENA has made since SAP AG bought out SAP Arabia’s exclusive distribution rights for the  MENA geography in 2007 to create its own direct presence in the region.

Speaking to Channel Middle East, Duffaut said that along with the centres of excellence, SAP would be investing into partner enablement, partner expansion and internal resources around partner management and recruitment and technical advisors.

“We are going to continue to expand, even accelerate our channel business, if we look at what we did already last year, we already did a pretty good job in 2011, we recruited more than 40 new partners, new to SAP; we trained and certified more than 600 new consultants as part of our partners; we have more than 1,200 qualified SAP consultants in the region, and the goal that we have with this investment is simply to continue on our success path, and accelerate even further,” he said.

Duffaut pointed out that with SAP’s expanded focus, it is now aiming at all industries and sizes of business. He also noted that while SAP grew by 25% in 2011, its indirect channel business globally grew by 42% and its Middle East partner business grew 80%.

The centres of excellence, which currently are planned for Dubai, Doha, Cairo and Riyadh, will act as both training and proof of concept centres, to help develop the skills of channel partners in the region.

Mazen Jabri, head of Ecosystem and Channels, SAP MENA said: “Basically they are centres that avail SAP solutions and architectures to our partners, so they can send their consultants and sales and pre-sales people, they can have hands on experience, and they can touch base with our consultants and experts. We will have a calendar of events to offer different types of knowledge to different people at different levels. It is a continuous build up of knowledge, which is what this region needs most.”

SAP is looking to increase partner skills, both across its traditional ERP market, which the company says is not yet saturated in the region, and into its new business areas such as business analytics, mobility and in-memory computing. SAP CEO Jim Hageman Snabe recently committed at the CeBIT exhibition that the company would launch one new market category every 18 months, and continue to expand the addressable market.

Werner Brandt, chief financial officer and SAP Executive Board member, revealed at the launch of the initiative that: “The MENA market is remarkable in its growth potential, scope and readiness to innovate and we strongly believe that now is the ‘right’ time to take our operations and engagement to the next level. The additional investment will enable us to deliver innovation, better localisation and more talent to our customers and channel partners, as well as help develop crucial skills-sets and employment opportunities in the whole MENA region.”

“There has never been a better time to partner with SAP. When we expand our addressable market, by definition, we give the opportunity to partners to do the same. We are opening all our markets, all our solutions, all our install base; we are partner friendly, and we want, by 2015, 40% of SAP total software revenue to come from partners,” Duffaut added.

Partners in the region are responding well to SAP’s initiatives, Duffaut said, with partners keen to set high growth targets and developing creative solutions of their own. Channel partners have also shown a willingness to bring in expertise from Europe where they have skills gaps, which is also mirrored in the global consultancy companies’ interest in the MENA region.

“Many of the global players that are key partners of SAP today, if take IBM, Accenture, Cap Gemini, they are very interested in investing even more in this market. They are here already, but they understand that the market opportunity is big, but as importantly, the opportunity to win with SAP in this market has never been as big as today. Their willingness to add capacity in this region is good proof that there is something going on,” he added.

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