IN THE HOT SEAT: Taking intelligence beyond the enterprise

IN THE HOT SEAT: Taking intelligence beyond the enterprise

With business intelligence (BI) coming onto the radar of many smaller organisations, now would seem an opportune time to oversee the rollout of a new SMB offering. That's exactly what Business Objects channel manager, Rhody Burton, is up to.

How did you come to be at Business Objects?
Rhody Burton (RB): I was channel manager at Crystal Decisions for about five years. When the company merged with Business Objects in January last year I retained the role.

I was at Crystal Decisions for eight years and started with a partner relations role, moved up to running distribution then the entire channel including the value-added reseller business.

How does Business Objects' channel work?
RB: We probably have about 500 resellers but 150 of those are truly active with our distributors - Ingram Micro and ACA Pacific.

Ingram has a good foothold with lots of resellers and a good licensing team where ACA is niche but also experienced in our products.

ACA has an imaging side to the business so we're looking at how we might OEM with a couple of its resellers on that side. We see OEM as a huge focus for our organisation.

Our direct sales team focuses on the top 300 companies through a named account model and we have around six VARs that sell outside of the named accounts.

What's the company working on at the moment?
RB: We have introduced a new product into the distribution and reseller channel called Crystal Reports Server (CRS). Previously we had our Crystal Reports product, which was effectively content creation for the masses. At the high-end we had various enterprise reporting tools.

Crystal Reports Server effectively allows resellers to sell enterprise reporting to SMB.

To get this sort of functionality and technology in the past you either had to go through our VAR partners or our direct sales force and you needed something like $40,000 just for licenses. For $12,000, CRS not only gives you five concurrent users but also has maintenance bundled in with that - tech support to help with the implementation. It's definitely packaged and priced for SMB.

Will you look to take more products through the distribution channel?
RB: Crystal Reports Server shows we are introducing more products into the SMB market, which we believe is best serviced by the channel. We've done an SMB campaign this quarter to support that, a reseller Web seminar to help train them and an electronic mail campaign to generate end-user demand, and follow-up education.

Partners can also apply for access to our partner extranet and it has a wealth of information. It's all about getting current resellers to do more as well as reach new ones.

What are your plans for the year ahead?
RB: SMB will be an integral part of our strategy so the focus will be on getting that right. The biggest challenge will be in getting education out there and changing the mindset of Crystal Reports as a box to Crystal Reports as a solution.

On the end-user side, it's just education, marketing and branding. There are certification courses resellers can go through on report writing if they want.

Report writing often leads to more license revenue as well as reporting revenue.

What trends are you seeing in the marketplace?
RB: BI is getting a lot of traction in the market place as organisations are realising it isn't just an IT expense. We can now take that out to the sorts of organisations the general reseller channel touches. People want to bring people and information - their two most important assets - together.

Tell us more about yourself.
RB: If I wasn't in IT I would be doing some form of business coaching for women. In my experience, women tend not to promote themselves as effectively as they could. I've seen a lot of women who don't realise the value they have to offer. My advice is to stand up and be noticed.

And find a good mentor because those are worth their weight in gold. I've also got two small children so I'm trying to find the balance between career and family. The culture at Business Objects is quite supportive of that.

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