A clampdown on cost and risk brought about by the economic downturn is helping drive more partner-to-partner and partner-to-vendor collaboration, several industry representatives claim.
For Microsoft SMB and partner director, Paul Voges, a key focus in the short-term is assisting partners to collaborate with their peers. As the economic downturn turns the spotlight onto cash flow and risk mitigation, more channel organisations are moving away from building their own specialisation practices in favour of working with other channel partners, he said.
Traditionally, partners have been averse to working with other channel-based organisations for fear of having their customers stolen. But as technology platforms get increasingly complex, more and more are warming to the idea. Sun Microsystems partner director, Sam Srinivasan, suggested a driver for collaboration was not having the cash to invest in growth.
“We’re not seeing it so much because of the economic climate, but in terms of people wanting to expand the business in general,” he claimed. “They’re taking a more collaborative approach in a number of areas, where they don’t have expertise, but where they want to have a single point of continuity with their customers.
“We have encouraged a lot of that in our community, particularly around specialist areas such as identity management, and service-oriented architecture, which are complex areas to get your head around, but where we have niche partners with those capabilities.”
Srinivasan said Sun’s efforts to foster relationships included day-to-day interaction with partners and a deep understanding of skill sets, as well as social networking tools and events.
SMB-oriented hardware reseller and IBM partner, Computer Merchants, has partnered with other channel organisations for specific customer deals. Director and marketing manager, Mark Loparow, said the ability to approach a customer with another partner, without doubling up, gave it a good opportunity to broaden its horizons. The company has been using IBM’s ValueNet program to foster relationships and devise wider solutions for customers.
“Customers are looking for ‘more for less’ in the economic climate,” he said. At the same time, partnering gave resellers an ability to add incrementally to the bottom line. Loparow said Computer Merchants was planning to grow through partnerships going forward, rather than rely on boom times.
“It’s yet to be determined how much of our business will be generated through this program [ValueNet] in the long term, but… it allows us to answer the question of ‘what else can you do for me,’” he said. “This kind of partnering will be effective in targeting customers across all spectrums, but at the moment we’re seeing the $50-$100 million bracket being the majority.”