How to Enable a Strong SaaS Partner Ecosystem

Software-as-a-service partnerships are more important than ever, and vendors are well-positioned to use them to equip customers for greater success, in a number of key ways.


You wake up. You pick up your phone and check your email. You message some friends and coworkers, perhaps. You sidle up to your work computer and boot up some customer relationship management or timekeeping software to help get you through the day. And, maybe, as the day winds down, you spend some relaxation time on your favorite streaming service. You go to sleep.

At some point, we may cease to recognize the omnipresent nature of software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions in our daily lives. But as technology professionals, it’s important we remain vigilant about the way things are — and the way things are trending.

Look at the numbers: In the midst of the early pandemic days last July, Gartner reported that SaaS was expected to remain the largest market segment in the cloud in 2020, growing nearly $20 billion last year to $120 billion. It’s expected to reach $140 billion in revenue this year.

COVID-19 only solidified the significance of SaaS solutions — and may have even increased our reliance on them. As the market continues to grow, it’s worth examining the ways enterprise software vendors can build and foster a SaaS partnership ecosystem, one that’s built to last in 2021 and beyond.

The Partnership Prerequisite

The days of monolithic software stacks — when your email, word processor and payment solution were all made (and billed!) by the same company — are long in the past.

Today, business customers have much greater flexibility, as they’re able to choose best-in-breed tools from across the SaaS spectrum, each good at its own thing and all connected. For customers, in other words, the technology experience must be unified, but the options must be diversified.

It’s also about doing more with less. Companies want to reduce physical infrastructure while ensuring there is stability, security and sustainability for their business. Our RISE with SAP offering was designed with this in mind, as customers need assurances they can pull off a transformation with predictable costs and timings, in a way that works best for them.

Because for vendors, it’s now a must to focus less on standardized vertical technology stacks and more on fully customizable ones, ones that embrace partnerships and enable a wide variety of SaaS providers to function as part of a full ecosystem.

Empowering Customers in the Cloud

Enterprise software vendors today know their technology platforms must be open, collaborative and integration-friendly to appeal to the modern customer. I’ve seen this over and over again in my work at SAP: Customers want to join a network of like-minded businesses, with the ability for knowledge sharing and best-in-class SaaS solutions.

The cloud cannot be framed as a deployment option. It must be viewed as an innovation opportunity, a chance for customers to harness innovation from anywhere, whether in their network, partners, third-party companies or elsewhere. Some key ways for vendors to stand out as SaaS partners include:

  • Vision and broad support for multi-experience requirements
  • Core back-end services supporting the development of fit-for-purpose apps
  • Flexible sales and pricing models that can be consumption- or subscription-based
  • Enablement of conversational UIs and microapp design

These are just some key tenets of vendor success that we focus on in our work at SAP. We have to help keep customers agile. We have to remember that it’s not about enterprise resource planning platforms; it’s about business technology platforms.

Innovation Comes from Everywhere

Vendors who don’t embrace the flexibility and adaptability of the open SaaS ecosystem are bound to be left in the dust. They should be consistently finding ways to facilitate innovation through technology, streamline systematic customer engagement and allow customers to build businesses around all of it. Constraining development at the infrastructure or application-level wouldn’t do any good for anyone. That’s why in the SAP Store, for instance, we have more than 1,800 applications as well as tens of thousands of partners who are growing and evolving their solutions every day. We’ve also invested over $80 billion in the last ten years in product development.

Going forward, it is paramount that vendors offer not just something to build, but something to build on. That way, whatever comes next, vendors, partners and customers can continue to work together in perfect harmony.


As head of Midmarket and Partner Ecosystem for SAP North America, Greg Petraetis is responsible for all facets of the organization’s operations. Along with accountability for sales and field project execution, Greg manages value-added resellers, third-party and OEM partners, distribution and inside sales. Underpinning these responsibilities is his unwavering commitment to ensure customers in this Midmarket segment in the region have the strategic support they need to digitally transform, innovate, and grow.