How SAP’s Partnership Agreement Blocks Vendors from Fighting Indirect Access

Last Updated on April 20, 2022 by Shaun Snapp

Executive Summary

  • Understanding the SAP partnership system is necessary to how SAP controls both partners and their customers.
  • This story of the partnership is hidden from view in media.

Introduction to How SAP Controls its Partner Network

At Brightwork, we have written quite a few articles on SAP implementation of Type 2 indirect access.

In this article, we will cover how constrained software vendors are both official SAP partners and victims of SAP’s indirect access campaign due to their partnership agreement with SAP.

Our References for This Article

If you want to see our references for this article and other related Brightwork articles, see this link.

Lack of Financial Bias Notice: We have no financial ties to SAP or any other entity mentioned in this article.

  • This is published by a research entity.
  • Second, no one paid for this article to be written, and it is not pretending to inform you while being rigged to sell you software or consulting services. Unlike nearly every other article you will find from Google on this topic, it has had no input from any company's marketing or sales department. 

Understanding the Partnership System

We are probably the only media or research entity to have published on how the SAP partnership program works in reality versus the standard explanation of how it works. The SAP partnership program is presented as a happy co-agreement between other software vendors and SAP designed to help best serve customers. This is a completely inaccurate explanation of what the partnership agreement actually is. But before we get into that topic, let us point out an important point of distinction to not lump in consulting partners with software partners.

Consulting Partners Versus Software Partners

Consulting partners have very different incentives and a very different relationship with SAP than software partners. For this article, we will be focusing on SAP’s software partners. SAP does not treat its consulting partners how they treat their software partners, and the consulting partner relationship is far more mutually beneficial. (although not for customers — which is a different topic area) Software partnership with SAP is a particular subcategory of being an SAP partner.

The Real Story on SAP and Software Partnership

Sometimes the partnerships are called the “SAP community.” The one question that is never asked is why the SAP software community even exists. If we think it through, in a normal competitive software market, there would be no necessity for a system where vendors receive approval and certification from SAP. Remember, any system can be connected to any other system. There is no need for the larger vendor to approve integration to its applications from other vendors.

Indeed, SAP is not a normal or ecosystem.

SAP’s Major Strategy

A major strategy of SAP has been to tell its customers that integration to SAP is complicated. (this is something that also repeated by SAP’s consulting partners) This means that many customers who already own SAP will often not purchase software from another vendor unless they are certified. This is the trick that gives SAP so much power over its vendors. The requirement for certification is a racket. A racket is the premeditated creation of a problem from which the entity creating the scenario then offers the solution. The conundrum is the problems integrating to SAP. The solution is SAP’s “certification.”

This is a certification that is meaningless technically. SAP’s blessing or certification does not mean that the adapter between SAP and the other vendor’s application actually does much more than pass a single field between the systems. The entire software certification offered by SAP is a formality into which SAP invests the absolute minimal effort.

The vital component of partnership for SAP is to get the partner to sign its partnership agreement.

The Partnership Contract

SAP offers a partnership contract to their prospective software partner. This contract limits what the partner software vendor can say about SAP. SAP enforces the control of the partnership contract through the threats of removing the vendor’s partnership status. The details of this are covered in the article the Control on Display within SAP’s Partnership Agreement.

This leads to vendors being silent, even as they are victimized by SAP on indirect access. There are other topics related to how through partnership, SAP can get vendors to alter their marketing vis-a-vis SAP. SAP demands that the partner vendors describe their applications as complementary to SAP’s applications rather than competitive (even though the applications are competitive and not complimentary). SAP is highly effective in getting SAP partner vendors to market against their strengths. SAP’s partnership management group effectively manipulates software vendors to work in their own worst interests.

Silencing Software Vendors

As I have pointed out on several previous occasions, the US has been backsliding on much of the regulation that it had at one time. This has been true for both parties, although it accelerates more under Republican control because Republicans are opposed to almost any companies’ regulation. This has left the US economy essentially a jungle, with the largest companies being able to use power against smaller companies. Over the past several decades, companies have concentrated power as elite institutions like the University of Chicago and Harvard have aggressively undermined antitrust laws.

SAP Partnership Agreements as Anti Competitive Tools

The SAP partnership program is highly deceptive. It allows SAP to exert control over software vendors, but it deceives customers into believing that they are receiving value in return for the certification. Again, SAP invests minimal effort into validating any adapters created by vendors. It creates another problem: SAP is not required to certify any one particular vendor or any one vendor’s product.

For example, Oracle’s database had a long history of being quickly certified for R/3 or ECC. As soon as SAP developed a competitive database in HANA, Oracle could no longer get its database certified for the new version of SAP’s ERP system S/4HANA. This is quite curious, as, in our research, we have found no evidence that HANA is superior in any way to Oracle 12c or IBM Blu, as is covered in the article What is SAP HANA’s Actual Performance?

In fact, the most likely explanation is that SAP refuses to certify Oracle, IBM, or Microsoft for entirely commercial reasons, as is covered in the article SAP HANA Used to Block Out Other DB Vendors.

Limiting Speech

Thus, we call into question whether the SAP partnership agreement is merely an anticompetitive mechanism, as well as being a speech limiting device. The outcome is that concerning SAP, the software partner gives up its 1st amendment rights (on the topic of SAP) as an independent entity.

These are serious claims indeed. But a question might arise do we see vendors who are SAP partners being unwilling to publish information that shows them being better than the SAP applications and databases they are competing against? Indeed this is what we find. Either on vendor websites or in the IT media, SAP software partners are conscientious not to challenge SAP. SAP makes partners do ridiculous things like including the trademark symbol when mentioning SAP.

Is SAP Only Able to Control Smaller Software Vendors?

No, it is not simply smaller software vendors that SAP has this power over.

As an example, for years, SAP has been releasing false information on HANA. Brightwork has extensively analyzed every item promoted by SAP regarding HANA. We have found all of their claims except for one (which is that HANA can perform better for analytics, but what is untrue that it can outperform competitive databases even in this area) to be inaccurate. (for details on this research, see my LinkedIn article listing, or reach out to me).

And IBM and Oracle, vendors who make the primary databases that compete with HANA, have been throttled from saying very much that would contradict SAP’s false claims. However, IBM’s consulting practice makes a great deal of money on SAP consulting. Oracle has other financial benefits of being a partner with SAP, so leaving the SAP partnership is not a feasible option, restricting their critique of HANA.

However, these claims are known to be false within both IBM and Oracle. I published an article a little while ago about how IBM finally began to contradict some of SAP HANA’s claims. However, within a restricted area of criticism in the article, IBM Finally Begins to Fight Back.

That is the power of SAP’s and SAP’s partnership agreement. That is how far down the rabbit hole goes.

Loss of Freedom of Speech on SAP and Indirect Access

Very few software vendors have said much publicly on indirect access. However, recently one software vendor has done this. This is only one vendor out of hundreds that are negatively impacted by SAP.

The vendor that is doing this is taking a chance by doing it. Still, this vendor has been careful to only focus on indirect access while otherwise praising SAP and the overall SAP community. The story the vendor presents about SAP (outside of indirect access) is a fairytale. SAP never behaved in a manner abusive of its power before it began enforcing indirect access against SAP customers. It leaves out SAP’s overall history and focuses only on the abuse area that affects this vendor individually: indirect access.

This vendor even stated.

“where would we be without SAP?”

After a careful examination of this vendor’s media output on indirect access, it appears this is because the vendor has the partnership with SAP as a limitation on their criticism. Plus, the other areas of SAP’s abuse don’t affect them, so why point them out?

They are restricted from freedom of speech by SAP but are acting as if they aren’t.

Praising Stalin?

While often cursing SAP in private one-on-one conversations with me, SAP partners’ vendors perform a quick about-face when discussing anything publicly.

In public, they demonstrate fealty to SAP; they support incorrect assertions made by SAP. This shows the degree of control that SAP marketing exerts over these vendors. They, in essence, have a type of Stockholm Syndrome, at least in public statements.

It is difficult to forget this photo with Saddam Hussian from the first Gulf War. This is similar to how vendors react when faced with being put in a position to contradict SAP.

It is important to keep up appearances.

We have correlated some statements made by both SAP consultants and SAP vendors that show a pattern to another historical antecedent through recent research.

“Everybody had to praise Stalin, all the time. Newspapers credited him with every success. Poets thanked him for bringing the harvest. People leaped to their feet to applaud every time his name was mentioned. His picture was everywhere parents taught their children to love Stalin more than themselves. They dared not do anything else.” – BBC

To anyone who has listened to declarations of how “innovative” SAP is, this should sound familiar. SAP is credited with many things that it has never done and values it never embodied, not only by its marketing department but also by outside entities.

This is not because it is true, but because of the following reasons:

  1. The entity is either paid by SAP (as in ComputerWeekly, Forbes, etc..)
  2. Because the entity made a great deal of money from SAP (Deloitte, Accenture, independent SAP consultants)
  3. Because the entity fears SAP (and or has some partnership agreement with SAP).

I could provide many examples, but many platitudes commonly offered about SAP are false. They are regularly repeated, often by people who have never researched them, and are simply repeating things they heard from someplace. If we look at SAP consultancies, they not only repeat false platitudes about SAP to their clients, but they actively try to keep indirect access as quiet as possible.

Why?

Hiding Indirect Access Issues from Customers

Talking about indirect access is bad for their business, and their business is billing hours for SAP consultants at the highest possible margins.

On several companies where SAP was not yet installed, but SAP was being analyzed as a new purchase, I learned that the prospect found out about the indirect access and SAP from the competing vendor. That is not from the consulting company advising them (and that wanted them to select SAP). This is a concerted effort by SAP consulting companies to do this and another reason why SAP consulting companies act more as sales arms of SAP than as independent advisors to their “clients.”

The entire system acts as a giant echo chamber as SAP consulting companies repeat pro-SAP statements, paid off IT media, and IT analysts repeat pro-SAP statements. Now through partnership agreements, even competing vendors repeat pro-SAP statements.

People who do not have the time to engage in research projects and do not study these statements in detail are quite likely to assume that these statements must be true since there appears to be a consensus. And that, of course, is the point.

Occasionally a point is made in a different subject matter area that applies perfectly to the present subject area that it would be a loss to leave it out.

The following is a quotation from the progressive economist Richard Wolff.

“We are a country that questions the systems of our society. We debate our school system, we debate our transportation system, why we even got off the last couple of years debating things like health insurance and what marriage is.

But when it comes to capitalism there is no debate. Look at the records of the US Congress for 50 years. Try to find a debate about the strengths and weaknesses of capitalism. You won’t find it. We treat capitalism as beyond debate. You can’t ask the obvious questions like what are its strengths and what are its weaknesses.

And like any system sprared debate, it becomes possible for it to indulge its worst tendencies. We strengthen a society by debating its systems. We don’t do ourselves any favor by exempting capitalism.” – Richard Wolff

It would seem that if the term “capitalism” were removed and replace with “SAP” in each instance in the quotation above, the paragraphs would be equally true.

Who Creates Fake Histories?

We know that Stalin would create fake history, where Stalin was exalted somehow, and his accomplishments exaggerated. SAP does the same thing. SAP is the only vendor we are aware of that created a wholly fabricated explanation for how a product was developed to exaggerate their co-founder’s accomplishments. That is the false storyline that Hasso Plattner invented HANA. This is covered in the article Did Hasso Plattner and PhDs Invent HANA?

Media entities paid by SAP repeated this story ad nauseam without ever checking if it was true. This story is important because it shows that SAP’s statements about Hasso and HANA are impossible and a premeditated attempt to create a false history. Furthermore, this worked.

Conclusion

Let us review what has been laid out in this article.

  1. The vast majority of software vendors are silent on indirect access, which helps SAP normalize type 2 indirect access through its control of IT media and consulting companies and false fronts like ASUG (the SAP User Group).
  2. A software vendor is fighting back publicly against SAP is a good thing, but one cannot drive to a truthful conclusion by hiding details about SAP because they do not happen to serve your particular cause. When an entity challenges SAP but then hides details or alters other details to keep from fully challenging them (because they have a pre-existing partnership agreement), this is self-censoring.

Keeping the Criticism Narrow!

The IT media entity paid by SAP (which is nearly all of IT media) is much more willing to pick up quotations from another entity that restricts criticism to a very narrow range because they are looking not to offend their sponsor.

In this case, both the IT media entity and the software vendor hide their bias from the reader. In contrast, in most cases, the reader believes they are getting information from unbiased sources.

Interestingly, just about every entity that serves as an information source on SAP turns out to have some identifiable financial bias or partnership agreement with SAP. When I articulated this connection, I am often told that

“Everyone has a bias, “

and that

“Informed readers can discern the difference.”

This is quite curious because this does not seem to be the case. These supposedly “informed readers” are routinely tricked by financially biased stories by SAP. How is Forbes’s reader to know that most of the articles that Forbes writes about SAP are paid placements? That is, the article was paid for SAP but is not declared as an advertisement. How should the reader figure that out exactly?

These responses are merely excuses used to defend against bias and the dishonest presentation of information. This should be indefensible and used by a person or entity who has this easily traceable bias. In fact, every single person who has used this argument has turned out to have their own financial connection back to SAP.

People that don’t have such a connection do not use this argument with me.

Ordinary Bias — as in a Preference-Based on Experience or a Financial Bias?

The use of the phrase.

“Everyone has a bias.”

It attempts to conflate the normal biases that a person or entity has regarding life experience, professional experience, or generalized views with specific, traceable financial bias. No one is saying that people do not have a right to like chocolate ice cream. That is not a bias. That is a preference. If someone is being paid to promote chocolate ice cream, they have a financial bias. The question is whether people promote chocolate ice cream and promote it so aggressively if they were not paid to do so.

I don’t even waste time analyzing people’s other biases.

Why?

Because economic bias already provides all the information that necessary to understand why people misrepresent and self-censor.

This is the problem with what the partnership agreements and what they do to software vendors’ ability to fight back against SAP or even tell the truth about SAP’s history.

A Case Study on Quality Problems of the SAP System of Information

I phrase this as the SAP system of information because it includes all information that comes to people. The advice is offered to customers on-site by consulting companies, IT media, IT analysts, vendor publishing, etc..

In an overall sense, the SAP system of information has demonstrated its profound weakness on the topic of indirect access. Indirect access is a critical case study of the entities that provide information on SAP.

It clearly demonstrates that even when SAP is 100% in the wrong, those that provide information on SAP will be extremely reticent to call SAP out.

This has allowed SAP to normalize what is a ridiculous proposal by SAP.

The Bottom Line With SAP Partnerships

SAP partnership agreements are anti-competitive tools, and it means the competing vendor loses freedom of speech concerning SAP and indirect access.

The Problem: Secrecy Around Indirect Access

Oracle, SAP, and their consulting partners, ASUG, and the IT media entities all have something in common. They don’t want indirect access understood. Media outlets like Diginomica are paid to distribute PR releases as articles, as we covered in the article SAP’s Recycled Indirect Access Damage Control for 2018. The intent is to lower SAP customers’ concern around indirect access so that indirect access is underestimated, as we covered in the article The Danger in Underestimating SAP Indirect Access.

The primary providers of information in the SAP space are all financially linked to SAP. SAP does not want indirect access understood, so these entities do as they are told by SAP.