Since coming strong onto the market, SAP’s small to midmarket-focused cloud ERP offering SAP Business ByDesign has been through a series of challenges, including a notable amount of executive and reseller attrition, but the company is looking to turn that around in the foreseeable future.

Accounting Technology recently asked John Okunski, director, North America cloud channel sales at SAP about some of the issues the product and division have faced as well as company and partner expectations and the likelihood of a turnaround.

What has been your greatest challenge in getting the product to market and how is that being addressed?

Okunski: The greatest challenge we have faced in getting the product to market has been the ERP market itself.  As you know, line of business applications in the cloud are the norm now – cloud ERP solutions are still being looked at with some caution though. 

The concerns regarding security and performance [with cloud products] have all been satisfied, yet there is still a lingering concern on what happens if I can’t access my mission critical solution.  We see that in the sales engagements we are in where you have cloud and on-premise vendors still competing against each other versus a company determining their IT or cloud strategy and moving towards that. The reality is that the when the discussions start about the benefit of the cloud it resonates with buyers. SAP is a cloud company and we are evangelizing across ERP, line of business, and everywhere in between.

What can you say regarding your channel strategy with ByDesign in the U.S? Anecdotal and actual reports from ByDesign partners suggest that many resellers that signed on early are choosing not to represent the product due to some, perceived or otherwise, lack of attention/direction from the publisher in regards to onboarding, training, lead handling etc.

Okunski: Personally I have been involved in many IT vendor programs over the last 15 years (I was partner with a reseller prior to coming to work at SAP) and quite honestly these are the same types of conversations/discussions that every program has with various partners.

When I was a reseller we had a very successful SAP Business One practice and very successful Infor practice as well. Our relationship and our Microsoft practice I would say was not what we had expected and in hindsight it was less the program and more what we did or didn’t do to make it a success.  My point is that I know of many current or former ByDesign partners that probably got engaged for the wrong reasons or didn’t really understand the economics or operations of running a cloud practice. 

At the same time, there are also many ByDesign partners that are building model practices around ByDesign and our other cloud solutions. Looking at the amount of support, training, and marketing that comes from our PartnerEdge program - the ByDesign (and all our cloud solutions for that matter) are getting a lot of attention from SAP.  Have we made mistakes or have there been some growing pains?  I am sure, but certainly not from a lack of attention.

How are you positioning ByDesign along with BusinessOne On Demand. Would you say the products complement or differ from each other in function and market focus?

Okunski: Business ByDesign was designed from the ground-up as a cloud-based solution, with concepts such as multi-tenancy and other critical infrastructure features built into the current version. The intent has always been to make business system adoption quick, easy and relative to other options inexpensive. Moreover, Business ByDesign has an intrinsic scalability that makes it a solid choice for companies experience rapid growth.

In contrast SAP Business One has its roots as a small-business solution deployed using an on-premise model. In general, hosted Business One is an excellent choice for small companies that expect to remain small but have outgrown an “accounting only” or “multiple applications plus spreadsheets” solution yet do not want the added work of maintaining systems and infrastructure on their own.

AT: What is the product roadmap for Business ByDesign for the foreseeable future?

Okunski: If you have been paying attention to SAP announcements and investments, it should be clear that SAP is committed to cloud-based solution delivery as well as serving the SME market. In that sense Business ByDesign is a critical and significant solution and technology investment by SAP.

However, while Business ByDesign has been a heavily adopted solution, as a high performing company is not satisfied that we have achieved maximum market impact and become the de facto standard for SMEs to use to run their businesses. As a result SAP has undertaken a reevaluation of the Business ByDesign roadmap – with the goal of achieving the company’s ambitious goals in the SME market – and will be releasing a refreshed vision and roadmap in early fall of 2013.

Together with our other cloud capabilities we expect customers to be excited about where the company is headed in terms of SaaS solution delivery – especially for small and midsized businesses.

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