Editorial: Two heads are better than one

Editorial: Two heads are better than one

Direct models have been deployed with staggering success by you know who in recent years, and even some multinational vendors with huge partner bases have quite openly moved to increase their direct touch in the market.

So it is a real shot in the arm for the IT channel to see the success Acer has enjoyed recently in conjunction with its resellers, particularly in the public sector.

The latest announcement has seen it score a $3 million win with the NSW Police Department (see page one), which is to be implemented in conjunction with local integration partner, Commander.

Acer president, JT Wang, visited Australia last year to pump up dealers with assurances that the direct model would not kill the channel. While there is little doubt Dell will continue to be very successful, Acer has quite clearly shown that a well executed indirect strategy still has a place in all vertical markets.

Its commitment to the cause cannot be questioned and recent government successes are of particular note - many other vendors keep telling us these departments insist on dealing directly with the vendor.

Best of all, it is the channel partners that are carrying out the installation services. It is no secret that there is little or no money in the boxes anymore, unless you are working on millions of units as a vendor, but integration and maintenance are still a very attractive proposition to any reseller.

Unfortunately, one man's food is another man's poison. While champagne corks are popping at Acer, the alarm bells will surely have gone up a few decibels at Optima. It has fulfilled the NSW Police contract for several years and its loss is the latest in a string of public sector blows our largest local manufacturer has suffered.

It seems like this would be a good time for a major rethink. Optima has built up a very loyal network of resellers over the past 15 years, which it uses to great effect in the small business arena. But it is famous for keeping public sector contracts to itself and that just doesn't seem to be working anymore.

When discussing the loss of the NSW Police contract with ARN, managing director Cornel Ung admitted his company's size was making it increasingly difficult to compete directly with bigger players because of razor-sharp pricing.

It looks like his response to this will be to concentrate on raising service levels and, if successful in an upcoming NSW Government tender, a reseller will play a part in delivering those services. Optima does use the channel occasionally in its government deals, but perhaps it is time to make this the norm.

Last week's column [see June 22 edition] made reference to the renewals war that looks likely to be waged among leading distributors. Looking ahead of the curve, I would suggest the next major battle for reseller hearts and minds will be around asset disposal.

Ingram Micro has announced a range of services in the US designed to tackle this problem [page six, ARN, June 22 edition] but there is nothing fitting the bill in Australia yet. Encouraging your customers to come back time and again is as big a problem in distribution as anywhere else, and this is just the type of value-added service that makes your proposition a sticky one.

Legislation isn't enforcing responsible asset disposal yet but it is on the way. As a distributor, I would be looking to get my flag in the ground early.

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