To survive in today's competitive market, vendors and partners must work together to provide value added business systems, says Mark Forrest, UK sales director of Smallworld.
Competition is fierce in the software market. Even the most complex technology and competitive pricing is not always enough to gain or even retain market share. So how can vendors differentiate their products from their rivals?
One answer is to add more value. Software must be sold as a tailored business system that can add value to each company, and recognise the fact that each firm is unique. That is not to advocate bespoke development, but to acknowledge that software is hugely complex and capable and requires configuration to focus on the particular needs of each customer. A software vendor that does not sell through resellers or distributors must rely on a channel partner to add value to its software product, or do so themselves.
From a business perspective, technology alone is insufficient - it is vital for vendors and customers to choose partners that have fully understood the myriad problems of the business sector and customers with whom they will plan work in the long term.
An effective relationship between vendor, customer, and partner is essential to a successful sales and implementation strategy. But all too many partnerships fail because a vendor does not choose its partner with enough care, or make long-term plans with the customer. If it is to provide a competitive value added business system, a vendor's channel must possess a flawless understanding of the technology involved, and of the business issues of its customer base.
Evidence shows that the principal motive for customers changing software supplier is that their day-to-day business needs are not understood and met.
Vendors need partners that are sympathetic to a customer's needs, understand the need for added value and can justify the case for technology. Customers must also evaluate the price they are willing to pay for the gains a successful partnership will bring.
As the pace of technology development intensifies, the pressure on the channel to provide more complex systems increases. The days of large scale bespoke developments are over - many applications can be easily and cheaply configured. With complex technology at commodity prices, customers have a wider choice. Shrink-to-fit software packages are a fraction of the price their of heavy-weight predecessors, leaving customers with money to spend to gain extra value.
For the customer it's all good news - more software and services at a fraction of the cost with proven value add. But vendors and partners must be aware of the need to meet their demand. The key is a flexible, but carefully and mutually defined relationship, where roles and responsibilities are made clear and where the customer remains the focus of everybody's efforts.
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