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One of the biggest benefits of the rise of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications is that they often make it affordable for an organization to acquire software they previously would not have had the time or money to deploy. Case in point are travel and expense management applications delivered as a service that are now being increasingly embraced at all levels of an organization.

As one of the leaders in that category, Concur, a unit of SAP, has been driving adoption of travel and expense applications to the point where it now has 40 million global users. Starting with the launch of a dedicated Concur Solution Provider program, the company now wants to employ the channel to spur the adoption of its travel and expense application even further.

Under the terms of the program, partners can simply opt to participate at three levels, starting simply as a registered partner that gets compensated for referring business to Concur all the way up to a Diamond-level partner that incorporates Concur within a large custom business process.

The program is led by Sachin Vora, who recently joined Concur as senior director of global business development. Previously, Vora spent 10 years building SMB and channel partner programs at Microsoft, including working on the Microsoft Office 365 channel program.

“There’s a whole new class of born-of-the-cloud providers,” said Vora. “These are the types of partners we’re targeting for growth.”

Concur, which is in the process of delivering tighter integration between its application and Microsoft Office, is especially interested in working with Microsoft partners.

Jeff Kaplan, managing director for THINKstrategies, a consulting firm that specializes in helping vendors develop cloud business models, said this latest channel initiative highlights how serious SAP is now about the channel.

“Over the years, there’s been a series of half-hearted measures,” said Kaplan. “Now that SaaS applications are here to stay, SAP recognizes it needs to stay relevant.”

In general, SaaS vendors are trying to reduce their total cost of sales. Channel partners not only extend their reach; they also absorb the cost of driving renewals of cloud services. Most SaaS application contracts don’t turn a profit for the provider until year two or three of the life of the contract. The upside of that realization for the channel is that not only are SaaS vendors more willing to work with them, but many of them for the first time have real leverage under the terms and conditions under which those relationships might profitably flourish.

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.