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For the first time in its august history, SAP is reaching out to substantially increase the number of solution providers it has the potential to engage.

With the revamp of the SAP Partner Edge program, SAP is creating what it describes as an open ecosystem designed to make it simpler for smaller partners to engage with the enterprise application behemoth.

SAP recognizes that smaller partners have often been disappointed when confronted with the complexity of the company’s channel program, said Daniel Ciechanower, vice president of global partner operations, partner programs and processes. To address that issue, smaller partners are now being granted free access to SAP intellectual property under an OpenEcoystem Specialized initiative.

At the same time, the enterprise software giant is also moving to clean up some of its existing partner relationships.

SAP is rewriting many of the one-off contracts it created over the years with one company or another to make sure they comply with the requirements it has created for Bronze, Silver and Gold partners, Ciechanower said. SAP has created a new Platinum tier at the top of its channel program that recognizes about 50 to 60 partners with which SAP co-develops products.

In general, the partners that SAP wants to have a formal relationship with fall into three main categories below Platinum; they are partners that want to build solution solutions on top of SAP software and cloud services, those that resell SAP software, and those that deliver SAP software in some form of a managed service that they operate.

Below that level are now smaller potential partners that SAP intends to use as a farm team to expand its channel base as they grow and evolve.

All these changes to SAP’s channel program are clearly part of a mandate from CEO Bill McDermott to make the company run simpler. As part of the effort, SAP is also finally replacing all its paper contracts in the channel with electronic ones, Ciechanower said.

Naturally, whether any of this ultimately broadens the official size for the SAP channel remains to be seen. But it’s clear that the number of solution providers sharing innovative ideas across that ecosystem should substantially increase in the months and years ahead.

Michael Vizard has been covering IT issues in the enterprise for more than 25 years as an editor and columnist for publications such as InfoWorld, eWEEK, Baseline, CRN, ComputerWorld and Digital Review.