SAP Canada Inc. has launched a vertical market-focused partner strategy in an effort to maximize return on investment and minimize implementation failures of advanced enterprise software applications.

SAP said the strategy

was built around exploiting the expertise and business insight of its partners, including the Big Five consulting firms as well as technology providers like IBM Canada Ltd. and EDS Canada.

“”The solutions that we were implementing four or five years ago — procurement, human resources –were primarily replacement solutions,”” said Patrick Dunn, newly appointed vice-president of business partners for SAP Canada and the former head of SAP’s Ottawa’s operations. Portals and customer relationship management solutions require a higher level of expertise, he said.

Dunn acknowledged past problems with SAP implementations, including high-profile disasters like Sobey’s Inc., which last year responded to supply chain problems by dropping its relationship with the vendor.

“”There were criticisms. To some degree, it was the fact that each implementation was approached from a unique standpoint rather than using best practices,”” Dunn said. “”What we’re finding from customers now is that they’re saying, ‘Show me how it’s been done, because I don’t want to be a guinea pig.””

The partner strategy partly comes in response to recommendations made by SAP Canada’s Customer Advisory Council.

“”One of the advantages is they’re already organized on a global basis in an industry,”” said Jodi Kasten, SAP Canada’s director of alliances.

Dunn said the strategy will involve SAP working with two or three business partners to develop software and best practices for implementation. The firm will also build centres of excellence for different verticals and conduct joint seminars for industry niches.

“”The advantage for a customer is that they can see it working and running in their partner environment,”” Dunn said. “”It’s an intense commitment from SAP and from partners to the market.””

The SAP Canada strategy dovetails with a global SAP partnership program called Give/ Get, which involves consultants sharing knowledge on a global basis and conducting joint consultations for clients in specified vertical markets.

Paul Edwards, director of strategic partnering and alliances at IDC Canada, applauded the increased focus on vertical markets.

“”It’s important, because in these areas, in order to really increase the competitive advantage and bring in compelling ROI, you need it to be specific with these vertical markets,”” Edwards said.

SAP is not the only software vendor increasing its focus on vertical integration. Navision Canada, which earlier this month announced the addition of six new reseller partners, is also aiming to bring resellers into its stable based on vertical expertise rather than geography. Edwards said the trend towards vertical integration is well under way among larger systems integrators and is being picked up by smaller integrators as well.

Dunn also said the entire enterprise software industry is moving towards collaboration and maximizing partner relationships, including resellers and integrators as well as suppliers and customers.

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