Roots & Wings….Framework for A Successful Partnership

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Developing strategic partnerships in an age when technology is changing so rapidly is exceedingly difficult. In the past, when product and corporate roadmaps could be considered stable for quarters or, even years, out it was easy to map out a plan and align around a solution or sales motion, maintain a shared sense of certainty and then execute. These days, however, companies strive daily to adjust to changing needs of customers as well as disruptive challengers within their industry all while attempting to adapt to rapidly emerging technologies.

While business does move more rapidly today, I have found, in my 20+ years of strategic alliance development, the core drivers of successful, long term partnerships still equate to fairly simple principles which I often equate it to a simple phrase associated with raising children:

“Two of the greatest gifts we can give our children are roots and wings,”

As someone who loves building new strategic partnerships, I do very much care for them like my own children and take their growth and maturity very personally. Much like raising a child, you always have to keep the end goal in mind while also understanding it requires nurturing every single day. Daily nurturing builds roots and builds the momentum necessary to sprout wings and blossom into something more.

Roots: The Foundation of Strong Partnership
Roots are the grounding framework of any partnership whether old or new. For a new partnership, you must find and communicate a proposition that creates value for each company in a way that is aligned to their mission and objectives. While pragmatism dictates it must be tied to revenue in some fashion, there are always secondary, but no less important, feeder metrics or objectives which tie in such as satisfying customer SLAs, removing risk, or simply bringing in a customer engagement on time and on budget.

When examining pre-existing successful partnerships, it clear to see the roots have simply grown deeper over time. A series of honest interactions and successful engagements are the nutrients from which a culture of mutual respect and trust emerges. Key individuals from each company have learned to trust, value and rely on each other while also creating a blended corporate culture.
A great example of strong roots is SUSE’s long time partnership with SAP. We have been engaged with SAP almost 20 years and are SAP’s undisputed partner for co-innovation for mission critical open source software-defined infrastructure (SDI).

The best example of our joint roots is HANA, SAP’s in memory analytics platform. As you are no doubt aware, HANA is the innovation engine for everything SAP does and is even moving all of it’s acquired SaaS based solutions to HANA over time as well. Having HANA as the common platform both accelerates innovation but also hastens integration as well as the development of advanced cross platform capabilities. What you may not know is that SUSE Linux is the reference development platform for SAP HANA as well as other SAP solutions like S/4HANA. SAP HANA on SUSE Linux is therefore the basis of all we do together and when you deploy HANA on SUSE Linux it means you are using not only the same platform SAP developed it on which means it is the most compatible but also the most heavily tested and fully vetted platform as well. In addition to the stability, reliability and performance you can only get from SAP HANA deployed on SUSE Linux, you also get access to innovation in the SUSE Linux offering not available elsewhere such as Live Patching, performance and cost optimized HA (High Availability) configurations.

SAP HANA on SUSE Linux is quite literally, and figuratively, the root of our partnership with SAP and SUSE is, and has been for years, critical to SAP both internally for their IT department but externally as well for their HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC) Offering.

SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud Relies on SUSE: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLkPzFB1m_w

Wings: Bringing the partnership to new heights
Strong roots are incredible but will eventually wither without the wings of innovation as there is no longer new value being created. Partners will see old offerings ultimately become commoditized, or out of date, margins crumble and partnerships become burdens.

The wings of a partnership are developed over time as trust grows and companies become comfortable with not only a level co-dependence but also come to see partners as a key source of innovation. Partners learn, and earn, the ability to entrust a level of their own success on their partner and must believe the partner is both forthright and has taken each parties best interests into account in decision making. You will know the wings of the partnership are spreading as engagement happens earlier and earlier in the process when either party is exploring a new market, technology or use case. When companies begin engaging at the earliest points that the best minds of each company come to play and the best ideas emerge. This early engagement also has the very under-rated value of creating a sense of ownership within both partners as the endeavor is no longer the brain child of only one partner but rather the love child of two mutually invested partners.

SAP continues to trust SUSE as it’s mission critical provider of SDI technology as it brings even more innovative solutions to market.   For example, under the hood of SAP Cloud Platform (SCP), you will find SUSE OpenStack Cloud and SUSE Enterprise Storage (based on CEPH). SUSE and SAP are also aligned on the Cloud Foundry project for Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and today both SAP Vora and Data Hub are offered as containerized solutions on SUSE containers. We have dedicated product management as well as an extensive engineering team to work exclusively with SAP daily, on-site, in Waldorf to ensure we are always bringing the best of open source to accelerate SAP.

At SAPPHIRE 2018, we had the honor of having Dan Lahl, Global Vice President of Marketing, SAP, discuss our relationship not only our history but our co-innovation into the future.

SAP and SUSE: A Trusted Partnership (Dan Lahl Global VP of Marketing, SAP)

https://youtu.be/iquceOQJQhA

Conclusion
Partnerships are delicate and, often times, tricky to navigate and the reality is more of them fail then succeed over time whether from neglect or divergent values. To provide a partnership any chance of success you must start with a solid set of roots based on both the alignment of objectives and internalization of values starting with honest engagement. If you are consistent, forthright and transparent in your objectives and can begin to build a history of success and you will have built an incredible root system capable of weathering almost any storm. And as teams learn to trust and depend on each one another, you will see the wings of innovation not only spread across your organizations but also rise to new heights as teams willingly and enthusiastically engage creating a joint sense of ownership and pride.
If you would like to learn more about how SUSE and SAP have been so successful over the past 20 years developing roots and wings, please contact us at saphana@suse.com

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Shane Madigan
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Shane Madigan

Shane Madigan, Global Sales Director for SAP Solutions, SUSE
Shane Madigan is the global head of sales and go-to-market strategy for SAP solutions at SUSE where he brings his 20 years of experience in building and accelerating partnerships to the forefront. From working with partners ranging from global strategic consultancies to local boutique systems integrators, Shane works with the inherent understanding that, in order for a partnership to be successful, there must be both a shared alignment and understanding of each companies goals and values and, once trust is developed, innovative solutions and business models can emerge and accelerate. Shane resides outside of Washington DC in the quaint town of Leesburg, VA where he spends time with family, wrenching on old cars and training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.