If you look around the channel, everyone and his brother is a "value-added" reseller. And, as is often the case, the more a phrase is bandied about, the less it begins to mean. What once had substance, quickly descends into gimmickry. However, Clear Distribution is determined that its new incarnation as a value-added distributor will be a lot more than a gimmick.
So what exactly is a value-added distributor? "The channel has changed radically in the last couple of years, and because of that resellers, integrators and vendors are looking for some very different services from a distributor," said Clear managing director Steve Stuart. "When we say Clear has launched operations as a 'value-added distributor', we're saying companies of all sorts are able to outsource the warehousing, logistics, configuration and technical support needs they may have, through us. That allows those companies to get on with their core business by taking advantage of the infrastructure we already have in place."
Although Stuart acknowledges the VAD concept is not entirely new, he says Clear's model makes sense in the here-and-now. "A lot of those value-added services have been offered by vendors and VARs in the past, but what has happened is that declining margins and other market conditions have made it very difficult for a lot of people to continue offering those services. Because we've been moving towards a VAD model for a couple of years, we've achieved the economies of scale and the strategic alliances necessary to act as a repository for all kinds of channel services."
Stuart points to Clear's alliances with Unisys, Philips and Siemens Nixdorf as being instrumental to its VAD operations, in addition to those relationships Clear has with Novell, Microsoft, Intel, and Digital in its other role as systems integrator Clear Technologies. "We're able to leverage those relationships on behalf of our customers," he said.
In addition to what he calls the typical types of value-added services - project management, network configuration, help desk support, audit services, on-site installation and training - Stuart says Clear's VAD model allows resellers and integrators to adopt an la carte approach and use any or all of Clear's services. "We don't see anyone else in the channel offering these kinds of services in quite the same way," he said. "What we're saying to companies in the channel is 'Use our infrastructure in the way that best suits you. We'll take care of the behind-the-scenes operations, while you stay focused on your core business'."