Partnering Strategy
Min read

How Ecosystems Integrations Transform Partner Programs: An SAP Use Case

Nithya Lakshmanan

Working across companies to coordinate joint selling with partners creates immense value to the end customer, as well as the partners collaborating on the sale. However, each partner company keeps their own system of record for each shared opportunity, siloing helpful information and creating a barrier to the sales experience for everyone involved.

In addition, managing sensitive sales data with manual tools and processes is time-consuming, prone to security leaks, and can cause delays, directly impacting revenues from the partnerships. These issues are compounded as you scale, and manual processes lead to missed leads and lost data that can sabotage the success of your program.

Even when you and your partners have digital systems in place, if they’re not connected, you’ll still be doing manual data entry and reconciliation to stay aligned.

Fortunately, there's a way to secure the future of your partner programs through WorkSpan's Ecosystem Cloud and its game-changing integrations. WorkSpan's digitized platform and partner integrations will help you drive growth, efficiency, revenue, accountability, and security in your partner programs.

Figure 1: WorkSpan Integrations allow you to pull opportunities from your and your partners’ CRM systems into a shared Sales Plan for both partner teams to engage and drive joint opportunities to close

This is the strategy Mark Minken, Business Analyst at SAP, and his team implemented.

Seeing that a legacy system and labor-intensive processes were limiting their Global Strategic Services Partners (GSSP) program, the team knew they needed to make important changes.

SAP went digital, synchronizing all the moving elements of their GSSP program using WorkSpan's Ecosystem Cloud platform and application integrations, with amazing results!

So, let's jump into how SAP transformed their GSSP alliances business with WorkSpan's innovative ecosystem integrations.

Why are manual processes in partner programs so troublesome?

The best way to expand your partner program's scope and efficiency is to use a digital ecosystem platform with tight integrations to your other business systems like CRM.

This strategy provides a solid foundation for you to drive shared outcomes and increase revenue with your partners.

For example, say you're participating in joint offerings with multiple partners to develop solutions for the IoT industry. The go-to-market motions with partners such as building joint solutions, joint account planning, managing pre-pipeline, and co-selling each require different systems and data to capture information such as leads, opportunities, and income generated.

When you're managing these partner motions manually using spreadsheets, shared files, and emails with no automation, things can quickly get out of control. This becomes more problematic as your partner base expands. And as a partner ecosystem leader, it’s nearly impossible to gather the right data in a timely way to understand what’s happening in your business and how to react.

The result is poor visibility into joint pipelines, missed opportunities, and lack of trust with your ecosystem partners.

Twenty years ago, companies invested in partner portals or PRM systems that were designed for the old model of “sell-through” partnering with value added resellers. Today the world has completely changed with cloud-based enterprise solutions, co-selling partner motions, value-added services, and multi-partner customer engagements. PRMs were never designed for that -- so spreadsheets and emails have sadly been the only solution to handle modern partnering activities -- until WorkSpan.

A huge concern with manual systems is that data quickly becomes stale. This can cause a lack of trust in the information and missed opportunities. This results in low partner engagement and extended deal cycles, which can ruin your program's credibility. Finally, handling partner program data manually exposes your partnerships to non-compliance and security issues, which can have substantial financial and legal consequences.

But it's not all bad news; you can overcome the challenges mentioned with a digital platform that:

  • Provides cross-company data flow to ensure information travels seamlessly and automatically from one business to another in your ecosystem.
  • Allows for the review of your partnerships’ data and action to be taken on it collaboratively.
  • Is secure and compliant.

This is where WorkSpan's Ecosystem Cloud was the clear choice when SAP sought to transform their GSSP program. WorkSpan allows you to plug-in applications into its digitized ecosystem for efficiency, reliability, and revenue growth.

Figure 2: WorkSpan Integrations keep both partners up to date on new opportunities initiated by either partner and opportunity updates from either side, so both partner teams are always in sync

How SAP’s GSSP Program’s WorkSpan Success Story Began

SAP's Global Strategic Service Partners (GSSP) program works with SAP strategic SI partners to build joint solutions and co-sell to their joint customers. It's a global program that generated over $2.5 billion in revenue in 2019, with strategic partners such as Accenture, Deloitte, IBM, Infosys, and 200+ regional and local System Integrators (SIs).

The Partner Business Managers (PBMs) in SAP’s GSSP program jointly drive leads and sales with their partners and collaborate with them on their go-to-market strategy to deliver whole solutions to customers.

Before WorkSpan, SAP's GSSP program used a basic data management system with no automation capabilities. The legacy system only allowed them to store their opportunities and make simple changes to the data collected. Additionally, because the system lacked function they needed, each region and each partner manager used their own self-created manual systems to track what was happening in their business.

The data management system wasn't user-friendly and so users couldn't input and organize information efficiently. Their data handling was 100% manual, and because it was a global program, the teams were managing over 50 million records at any given time.

There was also no official collaboration system to work with partners, PBMs and their line of business colleagues, so working together was very disjointed and incredibly challenging to complete tasks. There was a lack of visibility into pre-pipeline activity, and partners weren't attached to opportunities in the SAP's CRM.

Mark and his team sought efficiency through automation and aimed to reduce their manual input from 100% to around 30%. They also required a means for collaboration to ensure accurate deal data was captured and processed into a digestible format. Finally, they wanted a way to track their pre-pipeline opportunities from start to finish and monitor their partners' influence.

After understanding WorkSpan's capabilities, SAP jumped into reinventing their systems with the Ecosystem Cloud platform integrated to the SAP CRM systems.

Behind the scenes of SAP's WorkSpan Winning Integrations

To ensure data integrity and efficiency in its GSSP program, SAP uses an API-driven integration with an 'Auto-create' feature that automatically feeds SAP's CRM data into WorkSpan every 12 hours.

SAP's partners can also upload data onto the platform. This approach solved the pre-pipeline visibility issue. SAP can now easily track its targeted account and transition contracts through a specific sales cycle to completion. Additionally, Mark and his team can now observe partner influence from the early days of a transaction.

WorkSpan's 'Auto-create' feature played a pivotal role in the time-savings, and workload reduction SAP's GSSP program has experienced. “Auto-create” policies ensure that the CRM opportunity is automatically added and shared with the partners in their regional sales plans, and the designated teams from both SAP and the partner company get immediate visibility into these CRM opportunities, without any manual intervention. As Mark says, ‘This to me is the crown jewel of WorkSpan and is what made our integration into WorkSpan so successful.’

SAP GSSP program no longer has 100% manual processes. It now boasts a manual input rate of approximately 15-20%, exceeding their original 30% target. This automated integration has given partner business managers more time to allocate to deals.

Other issues tackled include those relating to collaboration, security, and scalability. Due to the versatility of Ecosystem Cloud, data for joint pipelines is immediately visible, and reports can be tailored for multiple stakeholders.

WorkSpan's global collaboration capabilities have also enabled SAP's internal users to gain a 360-degree view of their program. This has helped them ensure every transaction is presented correctly and that SAP's regions, LOBs, and PBMs can all work together to close more deals together with partners.

Since going digital with WorkSpan, SAP's GSSP program has better control of its information and can decide what data their partners have access to and when. This is because SAP used WorkSpan’s access policies, rules, and private fields to align with the program’s business needs.

SAP was also able to take advantage of the shared sales plans to distribute data with partners on their shared pipeline. For instance, SAP and their partners have shared plans in which business managers from both sides can view specific, authorized data relating to their partnership. By using WorkSpan, both SAP and their partners can evaluate and act on the information and provide updates on joint opportunities through in-context comments, approvals, and task assignments.

Thanks to the scalable nature of WorkSpan, SAP can now onboard an unlimited number of partners with ease and empower their partners to contribute data to the ecosystem. This provides another crucial piece of the information needed to make their partnerships fruitful. Plus, SAP will never have to worry about manually-creating spreadsheets full of their opportunities falling into their competitors’ hands!

These changes have all been critical for driving revenue, accuracy, security, and insight in SAP's ecosystem.

In fact, SAP now hosts four different partner programs on WorkSpan and all programs are connected to CRM via a single integration. A single CRM opportunity can include products, services, and infrastructure from multiple partners. Via “auto-create”, this opportunity is transformed to multiple partner opportunities in WorkSpan, enabling SAP to independently share and collaborate with the partners in each program.

Figure 3: Shared opportunities have both shared and private fields. Private fields are only shared within the same company. In addition, each company can maintain their own taxonomy of critical information like regions, solutions, industries, initiatives, sales stages, etc.

Quick Tips for Making Your Switch a Success

Here are a few nuggets of advice from Mark Minken at SAP to help make your transition onto WorkSpan’s digitized platform smooth:

  • Take time up front to define your requirements with the WorkSpan team. WorkSpan has many features that can help you with your partner program's transformation journey.
  • Once your system is up and running, onboard your partners as quickly as possible. The platform needs data from its users and input from partners to create accurate, actionable insights.
  • Encourage your partners to continue to share their data securely through WorkSpan to reinforce your ecosystem.

Once you've conducted the one-time integration with WorkSpan, you’re in a position to quickly scale your partner program. Rather than having to build separate integrations to connect to each of your partners, once you’ve connected your data to WorkSpan, you can now share data with all partners connected to Workspan. You'll be able to banish spreadsheets and share data on one shared platform with your partners.

With Ecosystem Cloud, you’re able to manage all of your partner programs on a single share platform with your partners -- everything from co-sell, OEM, and MDF programs to channel and partner-to-partner programs. Additionally, you can put security concerns to rest with WorkSpan’s defined access policies, shared plans, and field privacy controls to control who sees what and when.

The result is a connected, efficient, revenue-producing ecosystem that releases you and your partners from time-consuming, labor-intensive manual work. You're then free to focus on ensuring your partnerships thrive.

About Nithya Lakshmanan

Nithya is passionate about designing and delivering innovative technology products. Prior to WorkSpan, Nithya incubated and led a strategic innovation team at NetSuite to deliver pre-packaged solutions. She was a product management and engineering leader for software products at Oracle. She holds a M.S. in Chemical Engineering from Georgia Tech and B.E. in Chemical Engineering from BITS, India.

Ecosystem Business Management — Principles and Best Practices

We’ve developed a 49-page eBook on the emerging category of Ecosystem Business Management to share learnings from our customers and how to apply best practices successfully in your organization.

  1. IDC says by 2024, those who adopt an ecosystem business model will grow 50% faster than companies that do not.
  2. Accenture’s survey showed 76% of business leaders agree ecosystems will be the catalyst to drive dramatic changes in business models over the next 5 years.
  3. Forrester says ecosystem growth requires automation.

Make sure you’re ready to accelerate revenue with your Ecosystem partners!

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