Can a multi-billion dollar German enterprise software company find happiness with U.S. resellers? That’s a simplified view of the questions surrounding SAP as it works through its ally, American Express Tax & Business Services, to build a reseller base.

So far, the names of VARs signing up to carry SAP’s BusinessOne application look good. The package looked good at the product rollout earlier this year. But then again, demos and initial efforts often look good. But once the news of this effort becomes old, what’s the real chance of success?

The driving force in this market remains Microsoft, and it’s Microsoft’s actions that appear to be giving SAP and others, including a lesser-known company, Icode, based in Chantilly, Va., a chance to attract VARs who want safety through diversification of product line. Despite the efforts of both Microsoft Business Solutions and Best to keep VARs loyal to a single product line, many are driven by memories of Epicor’s efforts to do that three years ago, and by the common-sense fear of putting too many eggs in one vendor’s basket.

And there are some gripes with the highly competitive Microsoft channel. Icode, for example, is making a conscious appeal to disaffected Navision resellers, although it has yet to announce the wave of signings it promised after enlisting New York-based Business Management International, formerly the top Navision VAR.

SAP had one VAR, New Jersey’s Third Wave Business Systems, when it announced Business One earlier this year. In the recent publicity, it released the names of several VARs. One of the most notable was the TM Group, a Great Plains and Solomon reseller based in Farmington Hills, Mich. The TM Group was named to Great Plains’ Inner Circle and President’s Club at least ten times apiece, although it did not make the higher level Inner Circle just announced.

But perhaps to prove that SAP isn’t feeding off the MBS channel, it also announced contracts with an Epicor VAR, two resellers that carry Best Software’s MAS 90 and one that sells MAS 500, an SAP dealer, a VAR whose management has SAP roots, and one that carries its own vertical package. It doesn’t hurt that SAP is getting serious at a time when resellers seem to be experiencing a general uptick.

The beginning is promising. But SAP still faces a marketing challenge. Sure its name is known, but it has to prove it’s not just for big companies. It has to prove it is in for the long haul.

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