Local VARs Do Best
with SMBs"> Close connection Its the local and specialized VARs that are closest to SMB customers and thus have a handle on the kinds of specific applications they need to run their businesses, industry experts said.ServiceConnection, a wholly owned subsidiary of PC Connection Inc. that is charged with providing services to the SMB market, realizes that it cant begin to market its new VOIP (voice over IP), managed security, network management and software migration services without a cherry-picked partner network to cover the bases on a national level, said Ken Driscoll, senior director of services for ServiceConnection, in Merrimack, N.H."The cost of building out a service infrastructure is huge," Driscoll said. "We can leverage the expertise that already exists and partner with what we call benchmark delivery partners on both a regional and national level to fulfill opportunities." For their part, ServiceConnection partners get a built-in sales channel to drum up leads. ServiceConnection also promises its partners a level of commitment. "Less is more," Driscoll said. "We have a fairly monogamous relationshipwere not going to sign up 10 partners in their area so theyre exposed." Instead, Driscoll said, ServiceConnection is handpicking between 30 and 40 tier-one players in major markets and with specific expertise. SAP has embraced some of those same principles in its PartnerEdge Channel Partner Program announced in May. SAP officials said they place a high value on partners with micro-vertical expertise, as well as those with a track record of long-term customer satisfaction and retention. As a result, the PartnerEdge program recognizes and rewards partners for sales transactions (how much SAP software is sold) as well as for capability-building activities such as training and customer satisfaction. "By placing a value and measuring the capability and skill set of the partners, SAP and prospects can have the confidence that their partner can manage an SAP solution in a way that delivers timely business results to the company," said Michael Sotnik, SAPs senior vice president of channel and SMB in North America, who is based in Newtown Square, Pa. Its the micro-vertical expertise that is the partners most compelling asset, according to Brad Nicolaisen, president of Et Alia LLC ("et alia" is Latin for "and others"), a Milwaukee-based SAP business partner. His company markets Crew, a professional services application aimed at construction and project-based assembly SMB customers. SAP, as a large organization, has to keep a broad focus, Nicolaisen said. The company may have best practices for professional service providers, for example, but partners such as Et Alia can go one step further and prepackage best practices specific to businesses doing such things as project-based assembly and fabrication. "All we do are these industries," Nicolaisen said. "We eat where they eat. We talk where they talk. We get to know these people, and thats the value a partner can bring to SAP." For its part, SAP helps the partner build out its micro-vertical expertise by furnishing marketing dollars to participate in industry trade shows and conferences. SAP has also opened up its product development labs to key partners, giving them access to future product road maps and new technologies that will help them fine-tune their own industry-specific solutions for the next generation of technology. Beck, of Beck Consulting, said SAPs flexibility and attention to how partners do business make him optimistic about his new channel relationship with the software company. He said that, unlike past alliances, SAP has given his company the latitude to sell its SAP solutions without any directives. SAP has also given Beck the full complement of support services to best meet the needs of the companys smaller customers. "The turnabout is that SAP seems willing to learn from usfrom a best-practice modelto sell software through the channel in the SMB space," Beck said. "It really is more of a true partnership, in the sense that were people working together toward the same set of goals." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on IT management from CIOInsight.com.