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Resellers baulk at Compaq serenade

Resellers baulk at Compaq serenade

While Compaq attempted to talk up new service and value-add propositions during the Sydney leg of its partner Roadshow, a number of its long-suffering resellers were still none the wiser about Compaq's vision of their future.

Hoping to put the last eight months of difficulties and acrimony behind it, Compaq hired out the Lyric Theatre at Star City Casino and went about wooing the assembled crowd with renditions of Rossini and occasional spurts of strategy from managing director Ian Penman.

But under the soaring dome of the Lyric, amidst the harmony only a symphony can inspire, what did Compaq actually have to say?

In essence, Penman had three main points to make: focus on the customer, offer complete solutions, and work "in concert" with partners.

"Compaq is changing from a product provider to an IT adviser," Penman said.

"We want the hardware to be almost invisible. Our strategy is not about selling direct or indirect but about a new partnering framework," he assured reseller attendees.

But just what form the new "partnering framework" will take remains a mystery to most resellers.

There are some nervous organisations facing Compaq scrutiny in the second quarter of this year in regards to their direct or indirect status.

Stephen Spitz, sales manager of reseller Vertex Technology, understands that this has been a long-term plan that should eventually bear fruit for the reseller rather than cause grief.

"Compaq took over Digital for its services division so now when we sell enterprise-wide services down to PCs we can offer an on-site warranty. We can also offer a total solution because if we can't deliver a service to our client directly we know Compaq can offer an alternative."

Paul O'Connor, former Digital channels manager and now the NSW manager of integrator Data#3, views the traditional domain of reseller personalisation as its strength in this relationship.

"Compaq is a very big services organisation but they don't have the reach of the channel yet. This arrangement allows the channel to bring a lot of services to market and offer value-add on top of it, with Compaq's merger with Tandem allowing it to occupy more of a valued-add space," O'Connor claimed.

Over-distribution

According to Ben Reeve, Compaq's manager, segment and channel marketing, Compaq doesn't intend to dramatically cut or change its reseller base to support these new value-add objectives.

"We were over-distributed so we had to reorganise our distributor base, but when you look at our resellers we have a pretty good mix and the goal here is to work with the entire reseller base."

Compaq has revised the partner categorisation and entry criteria born out of the Compaq/Digital merger to include what Reeve believes is the best of both worlds.

"We wanted to create a framework and structure that allows our partners to understand and engage Compaq. That meant simplifying things," he said.

But Reeve was quick to reassure that "simplify" does not evoke assumptions of abandonment by the channel.

"Resellers told us they wanted to go back to basics which meant we have to reliably supply products and services first."

Compaq's new focus is unequivocally service and value-add in an environment Reeve describes as one of "tight hardware margins".

However, resellers are craving more details of their own individual places in the bigger scheme of things and with the system obviously still untested the optimism of some is tempered with caution.

Colin McKenna, managing director of ex-Digital reseller Integrand, would like to see Compaq "move on this quickly and announce the details, including their single-tier strategy so we can understand buy rates and solution rebates.

"Compaq's absolute clarity on where they want to go and what they expect from their partners is great."

But he warned: "I want to see them deliver the substance behind this."

The substance, according to McKenna, will be a rebate arrangement for businesses who have invested in value-added operations such as integration, specialisation and accreditation.


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