Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 5 seconds


Back in the 1990s, when there was a conference called PC Expo, SAP arranged press meetings about its All-in-One product. During the interview, I asked, "How much is it?" "We can't tell you." "Well, how about a typical price?" "We can't tell you." "Is more or less than a million dollars?" "We can't tell you." I thanked the SAP representatives for their time and left. I was one of three reporters who walked out on these interviews.

You don't have to go back to the 1990s to find evidence of the old SAP. But the change from that kind of behavior to what we've seen in the last year is astounding for a company this size. Now, I didn't asked about All-in-One pricing, but given the kind of information delivered at this month's reseller conference in Savannah, Ga., I think I could have gotten an answer.

In fact, the kind of message SAP delivered was one I haven't heard from a lot of vendors. SAP talked about VAR operations and particularly about cash, which is the key metric for many small businesses. Okay, THE metric for many. Execs talked about how they were going to make the resellers a lot of money. There was more talk about how resellers run businesses and eliminating channel conflict than there was about great product features.

Years ago, I covered what was then the computer specialty store channel, and many of those store owners later became VARs and started selling software not hardware. I covered MicroAge, which was a franchisor. And I always felt its founders, Jeff McKeever and Alan Hald, understood the political nature of the relationship between corporate and the franchisees. That relationship was very much like the way a midmarket software vendor and its VARs relate. Hald and McKeever conveyed the feeling that they cared about resellers' profits more than they cared about corporate profits. Not many people are able to do that.

But that's the message that needs to be delivered by a vendor that wants to get the most out of its channel. The fact that partner satisfaction is one element of the comp plan of some SAP executives says this company gets it. Now, I can't tell you that translates into a particular degree of success for a specific product. There are a lot more variables out there in the market that determine product success. And I can’t tell you for sure that SAP will deliver on this message.

But it's nice to hear it.

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