Monday, August 6, 2012

VARs: Technology’s Coach, Consultant and Referee


One of the biggest questions faced by companies seeking to make large technology purchases is how to get the job done.

Will you purchase directly from the hardware and software manufacturers? Will you need an integrator? Is your IT staff capable? Who is ultimately responsible to coordinate all the components, people and organization needs to steer the project to success instead of catastrophe? After all, even the best-intentioned decisions can be disastrous if implemented poorly.

Expensive, complex technology purchases have many questions that require the right answers for everything to go right. You know your business. The manufacturer knows their product.

A good Value-Added Reseller (VAR) will know both.

This is where a VAR can play an essential role, or realistically, roles. A VAR is a combination coach, consultant and referee that can bring together the most appropriate products and processes to create the best solution to fit your unique needs.

The Coach (your advocate)
What makes a good VAR? First, they aren’t a box pusher -- they’re a solution provider. It’s important to them to have a full understanding of your business and goals because they want to select the best product(s) for you. They are your advocate.

Seek a VAR that has true expertise in Content Management, Case Management or Data and Document Imaging Capture (meaning the VAR has relationships with several key product manufacturers, giving you multiple product options) and one that has in-house integration capabilities. This (what I call a “super-VAR”) doesn’t just resell a product. It is with the customer from start to finish to ensure project success and solution performance.

VARs have to undergo rigorous manufacturer training to obtain authorization to sell and implement their products. Manufacturers ensure their VARs are qualified to provide you with what you need. That’s not to say any or every VAR is worthy of your business, though. It’s no secret that you’ll have several VARs to choose from.

The Consultant
It is of the utmost importance that you fully identify your business problems before you select your products. You need to answer broad questions such as:
  • What are your pain points?
  • What can’t you do now?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • If you’re upgrading or replacing a current system, what aspects of the current solution were you lacking? 
  •  What’s your vision?
In this process, a good VAR should be able to assist with a complete Requirements Analysis and Functional Design Specification. This analysis helps you identify and clearly state the business problem(s) at hand, then detail the components and work processes involved, leading to the ultimate solution for your company.

The Referee
Likely, you’ll have a combination of the three types of players working with you on your projects. – the manufacturer that makes the hardware or software; the VAR itself; and the Systems Integrator that works to install the products and makes them work.

When considering product knowledge, it’s obvious that the manufacturer will be knowledgeable about what they produce and sell. After all, they are their product. They developed it. They commercialized it. They know it. And most likely, the manufacturer isn’t just trying to “sell, sell, sell.” Odds are they truly believe in their product and that it really is the best fit for your business. However, because manufacturers cannot help but be partial to their own products, you’re not really getting an objective recommendation, which means you’re not getting the best
counsel.

You need advice that addresses your issues. And like you do for your clients, the VAR should focus on individual client needs, no matter how small. When working with a good VAR, you’ll be more than a product code or a support ticket routing number.

The important thing is to get the balance right. Of course, you want a manufacturer who produces a quality product. And, of course, you want an integrator who will get you up and running smoothly.  But all VARs are not created equal. Choose based on a combination of knowledge, selection, experience, customer and manufacturer relationships and value-added services to find the technology partner that is right your and your business?

So, what’s been your experience working with VARs? Are there any other considerations you would include?

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