Sending Out Strong Signals

Wireless vendors team with solutions providers for sales help.

As wireless technologies filter into the corporate workplace, wireless vendors are turning their attention to systems integrators to broaden their reach across enterprise back-end systems. In some cases, wireless vendors are implementing their indirect-sales strategies to team with solutions providers who can influence a sale and handle the complex integration needs.

In the case of Ericsson, the company decided late last year to switch the sales model of its Enterprise Division from a 100 percent direct strategy to a totally indirect model that leverages systems integrators for all its business in North America.

Making the Move The partner play is a necessary component of Ericssons "end-to-end" vision for the third-generation world of the future, says Lars Swensson, president of Ericsson Enterprise AB. Ericssons scenario calls for technologies that run the gamut from switches in telco offices to Bluetooth personal area networks within enterprise organizations.

Ericssons recently revamped Enterprise Division is different from its telecommunications arm, which sells direct to both AT&T and WorldCom. Last autumn, Ericsson sold its entire North American enterprise sales operation to Norstan, a large systems integrator.

Norstan is upbeat about Ericssons moves. "Ericsson is the most strategic partnership we have. Ericssons wireless networking and emerging IP technology will give customers options they could only have dreamed of before," says Norstan CEO Jim Granger.

Meanwhile, Ericssons Enterprise Division indirect model has 40 systems integrators in North America, with more to be added in the near future, says Bo Larsson, senior VP of Ericsson Enterprise.

Better Position Under the direct-sales approach, Ericsson was limited mainly to PBX sales. But with its evolving partner strategy, Larsson hopes for cross-selling of Ericssons wireless LANs and mobile handsets.

Most of the partners signed by Ericsson are voice communications specialists, but Ericsson also is eyeing data communication integrators.

Analysts applaud Ericssons plans. "Ericsson is positioning itself very competently here in the emerging wireless marketplace," says Shiv K. Bakhshi, research manager of wireless infrastructure at IDC.

Although its partner model transformation isnt as broad, Palm Computing is relying more on solutions provider partners for sales and systems integration and has beefed up its existing VAR program. "Weve added more training to help VARs understand where the biggest horizontal and vertical market opportunities are," says Dan Glessner, Palms director of enterprise marketing.

Sweet Spots As Glessner sees it, the brightest spots include CRM, field sales, field service, ERP, health care, retail, manufacturing and corporate e-mail. "Our VAR program is traditionally for people who resell the device. But thats not to say that some of our resellers arent also systems integrators," Glessner adds.

About six months ago, however, Palm rolled out a program just for systems integrators that currently has about 20 members. One of them, IBM Global Services, has created a "Palm competency" practice for application development and systems integration of PalmOS PDAs and the Palm.Net wireless service.

Analysts International, another Palm systems integration partner, has deployed about 100 Palm handhelds internally, using Globalwares PylonPro to interface between the devices and Lotus Notes. "There are a lot of opportunities to take existing applications and extend them out to handheld devices," says Glessner.

Both integrators are trying to bolster their Palm back-end integration efforts with products.

Ericssons Mobile Enterprise Communication System, due out at years end, will take a modular approach, aimed at easing complex tasks such as linking PBX systems with wireless LANs.

Ericsson has seen the light; now it must execute with solid partner programs.