VARs Take Notice: Vendors Are Customers Too

Opinion: Manhattan VAR CGS has truly embraced the solution provider model by offering services that even vendors are using.

I know I have been guilty of this in the past: dividing the technology universe into three oversimplified buckets of vendors, channel partners and end-user customers. I never identify an end-user organization, the ultimate stop on the technology bus, as just a customer because to me, the channel of VARs, integrators, VADs and solution providers, are "customers" to the vendor, in my mind.

So there you have my three vast and broad buckets. However, what I usually fail to realize is that vendor partners are also businesses themselves, and therefore users of technology that need solutions from the channel just as the financial, healthcare, manufacturing, or whatever, vertical.

This came to the forefront of my mind last week when I visited the New York Downtown offices of Computer Generated Solutions Inc. and met with Senior Vice President of Technology Solutions and Training Michael Wilding. You see, Wilding also carves his companys business into three buckets: application development, customer support and technology solutions. In my view, CGS is a great example of a channel company taking the high road and specializing in high-value, high-margin sophisticated services.

Its application development business centers around its own ERP (enterprise resource planning) solution, called "Blue Cherry," specifically aimed at the apparel industry. Its customer support business offers outsourcing help desk functions and call center management, primarily in North America, which is a big plus. And last, but certainly not least, its technology solutions business specializes in IT consulting and integration services as well as staff augmentation.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this third area is the work CGS does for the vendor community in building portals for their "channel-enabling programs," as it has done for IBM, Avaya and Red Hat. This is a pure case where CGS has become a true business partner with its vendors and now some of its vendors are the companys best customers.

Wilding showed me the channel portal his company built for IBMs partners with the mission to provide value to the VARs themselves. Its an area specifically for IBMs business partners to go to for sales, marketing and technical information built around each IBM software product category. The site is highly customizable and can provide the right information based on your interest, be it sales and marketing-focused or of a more technical nature. CGS even manages the portal for IBM with an emphasis on "e-support" to answer questions in real time, although when all else fails, there is a support number that CGS mans.

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