What is value? This is more than a philosophical question for theputeraid. channel - it is, or is supposed to be, the essence of our existence. It all depends on where you make your money. The glory days of high-percentage margins on boxes from mainframes to PCs are long gone, and everyone, channel and manufacturer alike, is trying to find out where the profit is.
Combine that with an increasingly sophisticated customer base fed up with being taken for a ride by one technology company after another, and you have the early days of a change in the market.
The largest companies have been saying they want to get into the services sector for years, and now it is actually happening.
Compaq has bought Digital, primarily for its substantial services arm.
CA has tried to take over CSC, again for the services credibility to sell to big business. The analysts rumour is that even EDS is in play. Last week's profit warnings from Intel and Compaq show that the market in hardware is slowing down. The big bucks are now going after the service sector.
So once every manufacturer has its service and support arm, who will need the channel? Or rather, how will the channel reinvent itself?
We need to make the most of our advantages - our ability to select products independently, experience in individual markets, knowledgeable people and historic relationships with our customers.
There is one key area where we can drive the story naturally - and that is in the arena of value and costs. Total cost of ownership has been a vendor bandwagon for some years.
Gartner proves to everyone's satisfaction that the cost of hardware is minimal - about 20 per cent when looking over a three-year period - in comparison to the costs of applications, maintenance, user support, training, upgrades and service. But in this language, cost is about cutting, not opportunity. It is certainly not the same as value.
Value is about using your money and your resources to the best effect.
The value of IT is about capitalising on business opportunities, making them easier to identify and secure. This is surely the only reason any company would buy and install computing equipment. It is not about keeping staff occupied in migration to Windows NT or even about spreadsheets and wordprocessing.
Fundamentally, technology has to make a positive difference to the success and survival of the company that buys it - and beyond that, create a competitive advantage.
Value is in the customers' interest. If they start looking at their IT
on value terms rather than cost terms, they will be able to see a return on an investment rather than a constant budgetary drain.
It is by working closely with customers that the channel will continue to make the case for its own existence. It is all in the value-add. That is why they call us Vars.
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