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The Best Partner Conferences Feel More Like a Reunion

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Attending a partner event hosted by your key vendors is well worth the effort. There are many reasons to do so.

Last month in Orlando, SAP’s Global Partner Summit came together with a mix of great partners, exciting content, a dash of Hollywood sizzle, and lots of networking and fun.

The event, which takes place the day before SAP’s award-winning SAPPHIRE NOW conference, had more than 1,600 individuals from partners around the world. Given the size, I was struck by how intimate it felt--more like a class or family reunion than business conference.

SAP CEO Bill McDermott even told the attendees at one point, “I hope you know that this isn’t just a partnership with SAP. This is family.”

SAP aside, attending a partner event hosted by your key vendors is well worth the effort. There are many reasons to do so. These conferences can inspire, educate, enable and inform. But, more than anything, it is a chance to connect, network, and foster business growth and opportunity.

I am especially proud of our event, the SAP Global Partner Summit. Let me tell you why.

Informing and Educating
Our summit featured plenty of options for partners to enhance and grow their business with SAP. Three keynotes and 16 sessions spread across four different content tracks provided something for everyone.

These sessions provided value beyond the typical channel sales pitch. We delved into business opportunities, roadmaps, industry trends, how to market, monetization and more.  

Getting Social
This year we expanded our social media elements to get the crowd going--a social ticker displayed on screen during the main stage sessions kept the audience informed and engaged. An onstage “Social Bar” complete with real-time input and analysis from our social “barista” showed the reactions to the messages being shared on our keynote stage. It was a lot of fun, and our barista got both the in-person and virtual attendee crowds so involved that #SAPPartnerSummit was a top trending topic during the morning hours.

Always-On Networking and Learning
In between keynotes, the show floor buzzed with activity as partners stepped up to demo pods to connect with SAP experts on topics from SAP PartnerEdge Program to various SAP products, and to talk with vendors like Amazon Web Services, Google and Workspan.

Partners First
During the morning keynote, “Partners First, that’s all that Matters,” Rodolpho Cardenuto, president of global channels, told partners that SAP is focusing on three crucial areas for the future: monetization, enablement and customer engagement. He praised the success of SAP PartnerEdge Cloud Choice, profit option and referral option--two go-to-market programs to help partners move to the cloud with ease.

To bring home the message of “Partners First,” SAP’s Melissa Di Donato, chief revenue officer for SAP S/4HANA Cloud, emphasized the importance of partners to SAP. “As we’re building the S/4HANA business, I’m proud to say that every single opportunity is aligned with our partners. You are critical for our success,” Di Donato said. She also pointed out that SAP Is not creating an S/4HANA services business, stating, “We’ll never compete with you on services.”

Innovation in a Time of Disruption
Sam Yen, SAP’s chief design officer and managing director of SAP Silicon Valley, moved away from the operational side and spoke about “the SAP You Know. The SAP You Need to Know.” He gave partners an inside view of the innovations coming out of SAP Labs around machine learning and IoT. He showed the value of developing on the SAP Cloud Platform with the intelligent enterprise of tomorrow in mind. He cited innovations like SAP CoPilot, the first true digital assistant for the enterprise, which will dramatically simplify how we all interact with software, and SAP Build, a comprehensive set of application development tools.

Shark Tale
We closed the day with the inspirational Daymond John, founder of fashion line FUBU and star of TV’s “Shark Tank,” to give partners additional value beyond SAP-specific topics.

John, a self-made entrepreneur, explained that businesses like his didn’t start out with a lot of money. Rather, he stressed the importance of learning from mistakes and investing in the right people.

Finally, SAP CEO Bill McDermott showed partners the love and gave the audience a preview of the SAP Leonardo announcement. He also offered sage advice for partners to ensure their continued growth with SAP. “In this world, you’re either an early adopter or an also-ran if you don’t make the switch to digital. Start thinking about machine learning, artificial intelligence, IoT.”

It was an inspired ending to a successful gathering and, like most family affairs, left everybody wanting to come back again next year.

I hope our Summit story inspires you to learn more about SAP and partnering opportunities. If you missed any of the action you can catch the replays on Facebook LIVE at “SAP PartnerEdge.” Our company may be about software and solutions, but our business is about partners, customers and relationships.

Ira Simon (follow me on Twitter - @IraASimon) is global vice president, Partner & SME Marketing, at SAP. Learn more about partnership opportunities at: http://go.sap.com/partner.html.

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