Imaging specialist ScanSoft has taken the rather unorthodox move of outsourcing the day-to-day management of its channel to a third party.
ScanSoft’s business is split into three areas, two of which - embedded speech and network speech- are essentially the result of the vendor’s recent acquisition of speech technology developer SpeechWorks.
The company’s original imaging business, now dubbed its “productivity” division, consists mostly of optical character recognition (OCR) products such as OmniPage, TextBridge, PDF Converter and Dragon Naturally Speaking.
The problem for ScanSoft’s productivity division, according to regional director Bob Anderson, is that resellers and end-users are very familiar with the branding of these individual products, but do not necessarily associate them with the ScanSoft brand nor have enough knowledge about how such products can work together as a solution to manage documents across a workgroup.
In the past, ScanSoft’s productivity business relied on its three distribution partners (Scholastic New Media, Fuji-Xerox Supplies and ACA Pacific) to act on behalf of the vendor in representing its products. But by leveraging these distributors alone, Anderson said that individual products were too often recognised in favour of the ScanSoft brand.
While keen to stick with its current distribution line-up, Anderson said the vendor needed a boost in its marketing and channel management operations to propel the ScanSoft brand. It had appointed a Melbourne-based third party services company, Support Group Services, to provide technical, marketing and administrative support to not just end-users but also to ScanSoft’s reseller channel.
“[Support Group Services’] call centre will be used for many channel operations such as organising reseller training seminars and solution briefings,” he said. “We want to deliver the same messages to both our end users and our partners.”
Anderson said SGS would drive more leads into the reseller channel, instead of expecting partners to act independently.
“For the channel, it means less burden and more opportunity,” he said.
As for outsourcing such a crucial element of the vendor’s business, Anderson said he was highly confident that high level decisions would still flow through his office prior to being implemented in the call centre.
“The day-to-day management still flows through me, I just have more arms and legs available,” he said.
Current ScanSoft distributors have been informed of the change in their role and Anderson said their responses had generally been positive.
“They are most impressed about the possibility of more unified marketing efforts,” he said.
Anderson expects the outsourced arrangement to attract a wider variety of resellers to the ScanSoft brand, particularly office machine resellers.
“These resellers are starting to sell multifunction peripherals which combined with our software, turn a printer and scanner into a network document centre,” he said.
Should the trial of the outsourced arrangement prove successful in Australia, Anderson is keen to try it in other areas under his control (Asia-Pacific and Japan).