The Pros and Cons of Partnership

A vendor-partner relationship has a simultaneously competitive and cooperative nature to it.


Whoever said “it takes a village” likely wasn’t referring to ERP software implementation.

But even still, for businesses looking to modernize and customize their IT landscapes, it’s a well-established truth. Because to be successful, building strong relationships between software vendors and partners is absolutely vital.

At its best, a strong partnership between a vendor and systems integrator will result in increased savings, improved efficiency, enhanced visibility and greater access to data for clients. At its worst, a tenuous partnership can lead to implementations dragging on for months or years, without customers ever realizing the benefits of the software.

So, what are the greatest advantages of a vendor-partner relationship? And what is the best way to manage the inherent challenges of one? Let’s break it down.

Overcoming the Obstacles

One thing I’ve seen again and again in my work is that the biggest challenges of modern ERP implementations stem from four key areas: time, complexity, cost and trust.

Time is always of the essence when it comes to digital transformation, but today, many companies are taking a hard look at their existing landscapes and determining that upgrades—or complete migrations—are necessary just to compete in the modern market.

Complexity is inherent to the process as well—as customers implement new software across teams in the organization—but supply chain issues over the last year have only amplified the importance of operating on agile, transparent and global IT systems.

Cost, of course, is the most often cited reason for not pulling the trigger on an ERP implementation.

But all of these factors don’t mean a transformation shouldn’t happen. That’s where the fourth factor comes into play—trust.

A vendor-partner relationship has a simultaneously competitive and cooperative nature to it. One may be driving at selling more licenses; the other selling more work. One may work one way; one may work another. But in the end, both want the customer to get the best results. So, how can you mitigate conflict and overcome any obstacles? Try following a few straightforward steps when undergoing a project:

  • Define the swim lanes—Identify clearly who will be doing what in the relationship
  • Set clear expectations—Establish what is expected of both parties during the project
  • Encourage relationship building—Build a culture that enables cooperative work
  • Lean into each other’s expertise—Allow each side of the partnership to shine

Trusting the Process

As former Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie used to say when rebuilding the storied NBA franchise, you have to “trust the process.” The same is true in ERP implementations. It’s not just about trusting your partners; it’s about trusting the process. Sure, this is easier said than done—especially if you’re a Philly fan like me—but it’s critical to any project.

Because while partnering may carry some inherent challenges, it also has some clear benefits:

  • Increased capability from working with experts on the partner and vendor side
  • A fuller picture of the entire implementation
  • Improved outcomes thanks to having the software creator and solution experts involved
  • Greater breadth and depth of team skillsets setting the table for successful implementation

As the head of services for SAP North America, I know strong partnering is the key to helping our customers achieve their business outcomes. That’s why we work closely with partners of all shapes and sizes at SAP. And as the world shifts to the cloud, partner engagement is only set to become increasingly important.

So, lean in. Leverage expertise. And lead your team to the next level.

Michael Mahoney

As head of Services for SAP North America, Michael Mahoney oversees the sales and delivery of all consulting and premium engagement services across SAP’s solution portfolio with a focus on driving innovative business outcomes for its customers. Through a balance of strategy and execution, and with a team composed of strategic experts, project managers, software technologists, and process and industry specialists, Michael’s mission is to enable customers to realize the power of SAP’s suite of products by delivering transformative and outcome-oriented services.