BEA has held the first of its partner conferences in Melbourne, calling on their channel partners to promote BEA Web application server software in an attempt to catch main local rival IBM.
While analyst reports suggest BEA is a clear leader in the global market for Web application server software, domestically IBM has relied on its strong brand name to sway a large number of corporate clients to its Websphere product.
"The Australian market has been slower than what we would have liked, but there are plenty of local growth opportunities," said BEA partners manager Mike Stone. "Where we are weakest is presence. We really only have one serious competitor left - and with IBM, we are fighting marketing more than we are fighting reality."
Up until last year 80 per cent of BEA's sales were direct, but in recent months the company has been spending tens of millions of dollars on a partner strategy to aid the company's international growth. Stone said the partner conference, expected to become a regular quarterly event, is aimed at achieving "partner harmony" and equipping its partners with sales and technical expertise.
"We want to make our partner strategy a clear differentiator between BEA and other vendors," said BEA's partner implementation manager, Peter Woodward. "Working together successfully adds credibility to both BEA and our partners."
BEA Australia currently has 12 direct sales staff in Australia, which will increase to 15-20 over the next 12 months, but Stone believes this sales force is "hardly capable of project work". In fact, the vendor has reduced commission rates on its own sales staff to deter them from professional services work as a sign of goodwill to its partners.
"The real winner is services," said Stone. "There is around 10 dollars of services revenue available for partners for every dollar of BEA product sold."
The wide range of partners present at the conference expressed a high degree of satisfaction with the strategy, highlighting BEA's technology as "superior" and hailing its commitment to open standards. Most were particularly grateful the vendor was prepared to be so open and honest in communicating with its channel partners, and appreciated BEA's promise to stay out of the services revenue and stick to being a licensing-driven vendor. Their only concern was how to convince potential customers to use BEA technology over other major vendor offerings.
"To some degree, yes, IBM has a powerful position here," Stone told his partners. "There is no doubt in my mind it will be difficult to beat IBM. The only way to beat them locally is to do this thing together. IBM, on the other hand, has a vested interest in tipping deals away from other vendors and systems integrators," he said.
Woodward promised the partners that BEA would create a strong branding presence in the market that will aid their efforts.
Brett Winterford travelled to the conference as a guest of BEA. For an in-depth comparison of BEA and IBM's partner strategies, see next week's issue of Australian Reseller News.