Earlier today, Bristlecone and Hubwoo, two SAP hosting/services/implementation/configuration/development partners, announced a new alliance that turns them from competitive ecosystem rivals to go-to-market alliance partners that can take advantage of each others' strengths. The key sound bite from the press release is that "together they deliver a complete Analyze-to-Pay solution powered by SAP's procurement software deployed in an on-premise, cloud, or mixed model." While both partners were previously on the SAP price sheet (i.e., SAP reps could sell their respective offerings/services), they did not coordinate their efforts in an attempt to battle who they call out as a common opponent prior to the announcement.
To wit, the partnership is "aimed at providing the SAP market a flexible and viable alternative to providers like Ariba [emphasis added], this partnership enables customers to select an optimized deployment model that best meets their requirements." In other words, together SAP and Bristlecone help fill a hole in SAP's own capabilities, and rather than compete for business against each other (and with incomplete offerings individually), they're uniting to better compete against a common opponent. Granted, Ariba still has a number of relative strengths compared to SAP, yet this offering will undoubtedly make SAP more competitive in the market by increasing the flexibility of deployment models and rounding out important capabilities around the functional edges.
Both Bristlecone and Hubwoo have their respective delivering model and functional focus area strengths (more on this in Part 2 of this post). Yet together, they're capable of delivering a range of delivery options (e.g., on-premise, license hosting, single tenant hosted, SaaS, etc.) that begin to look like those of Ariba, Coupa, Emptoris, BravoSolution, Iasta, Ivalua and other competitive providers. Still, both are limited, to some degree, by the strength and weaknesses of the underlying SAP products they're deploying or managing on their customer's behalf (Hubwoo, however, supplements SAP's capabilities with its own internal technology in certain areas).
The partnership also expands the global coverage of both of the providers. Whereas Bristlecone previously had a strong footprint in North America, with Hubwoo's support, they will gain increased penetration in the Latin American and European markets. I had a chance to speak to both providers about the agreement and they appear excited to work together, especially on a global basis. Moreover, both companies have a very strong sales-led culture (they remind me more of Oracle in this regard than SAP) relative to the Waldorf mother ship. Perhaps most important, when it comes to partnership execution, they thought through the mechanics of how to execute the relationship successfully in the field to avoid the chance of channel conflict (with both their direct sales forces and SAP's sales team). As a negative for customers, this should also help hold up price points for implemented/configured SAP solutions in the procurement area, as the two providers will now not compete against each on price (however, this was a rare circumstance before).
Stay tuned as we examine the relative strengths and capabilities of each SAP partner in Part 2 of this post, and most importantly, what this partnership means for SAP customers.