Technology providers - both global leaders and smaller vendors - recognise that SMEs are not a 'one size fits all' market. It's a mistake to offer tweaked large-business products to SMEs, and it's a mistake to offer them technology designed for consumers in the home office.
A number of leading vendors have worked hard to develop cost-effective, easy-to-use products that offer powerful but specific functionality to benefit smaller businesses.
The special requirements of SME customers mean they expect their IT provider to not only have products designed just for them, but also that their IT provider be close at hand to help support the implementation and offer advice. SMEs need to have somebody who is local, who knows their community and knows their business.
The central plank of the large-vendor strategy for the SME market has been to invest heavily in developing relationships with resellers and distributors. The resulting partnership is bringing the best technology together with the best local expertise to implement and support it, providing SMEs with the long-term business products to help their companies grow.
But some critics are questioning if partnering with larger vendors is the best choice for smaller local VARs and distributors.
I believe working with larger vendors is the right choice for resellers. These vendors offer resellers a number of advantages and are serious about the SME market. They provide partners with the opportunity to work with a recognised, respected brand and sell proven products designed over many years by the industry's best developers.
Leading vendors also offer partners assistance in customer support, training and business development. They have experience in organised, supportive reseller programmes from working with partners in other markets.
Today's channel programmes provide resellers with an assigned account manager to offer technical support, development and advice, and listen to their concerns. An open-door management structure is in place to offer advice if a reseller is having difficulties in meeting targets, but at the same time to reward resellers' performance with incentive bonuses.
Most importantly, the reseller and distributors have a trusted partner that will support their business and provide sustainable revenue for the long term. This enables vendors and resellers to develop long-lasting relationships, providing the resources to implement comprehensive products that can grow with end-users' businesses.
The channel is pivotal to leading vendors' efforts to deliver business products to SMEs. Top vendors know a good reseller is essential to their success. Since the vendors are serious about SMEs, they are also very committed to their reseller and distribution partners for the longer term.
Jill Harrison is channel manager for BusinessOne at SAP UK
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