Editorial: Ratings and referrals

Editorial: Ratings and referrals

It was a surprise earlier this week to read an article in The Australian that suggested Microsoft reseller partners had slammed proposals for a rating and referral scheme to assist small business owners looking to pick an IT services partner. Not because resellers had slammed a Microsoft proposal — that is hardly news. Some resellers have raised concerns about the workings of such a system and a lot more thought and discussion with business partners is needed before it could ever become a reality.

But the article in question made out that Microsoft was planning to launch a rating and referral scheme that would be operated through its small business portal. While the press isn’t generally known for defending Uncle Bill and Co, in this instance it is justified.

Last month, ARN interviewed Kevin Burke, Microsoft Australia’s small business group manager, about the difficulties of connecting resellers with small business customers. At the time, he said this was a high priority for Microsoft. He detailed a service being operated in San Francisco that rated the performance of handymen and suggested it would be great if there was something similar to rate the performance of IT resellers.

But he was very clear in stating that the best model for such a service would be one that was managed independently. He also noted that there were issues which needed to be resolved around preventing reseller A from posting a damaging review about reseller B in order to lower the average rating of a competitor and gain unfair advantage.

The idea of the lunchtime session in Adelaide last week was for resellers to give feedback on a very loosely outlined proposal. Microsoft recorded the session and plans to use the information to assess the views expressed by its partner community. Isn’t this an example of the clear lines of communication that resellers are forever asking for from vendor and distribution partners alike?

And stepping back from the pros and cons of how such a system might or might not work, surely the only ones that would have anything to fear would be the cowboys and fly-by-nights that are dragging down the collective reputation of honest and reliable resellers. Who among you would be crying themselves to sleep if those guys went to the wall? Accountability is a necessary part of business and anything that attempts to reward people for doing a good job, by filtering more work their way, should be applauded.

Changing tack, tomorrow (Thursday) sees market analyst firm IDC holding its Directions 2004 event at Star City Hotel in Sydney. ARN gave you a flavour of the content in a three-page special last week and, as official media partner, hopes the sessions provide you with valuable information on the state of the IT market.

Finally this week, it is with pride that IDG Communications becomes the first publisher to tackle the converging digital home market with a dedicated channel title. As well as providing detailed analysis of what the market offers, the first issue of ARN Home includes 16 pages of listings designed to help traditional IT and AV resellers track down a whole range of exciting products. Much is still to be decided, but the skills of the IT channel will undoubtedly play a crucial role in shaping the digital home market. What do you think?

Brian Corrigan is Editor of ARN. Reach him at

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