Whoever wins this year's award for the Corporate Vendor Partner of the Year will have a lot to be pleased about.
Let's face it, selling to large organisations has not been much fun this year, and any vendors that have made headway deserve credit, especially if they have helped resellers to develop profitable business with corporate accounts.
If there is a surprise on the short list it is probably 3Com. Not that long ago, 3Com distanced itself from the high end of the market, but last year it returned with a vengeance - and a revamped channel programme.
The company's updated Focus scheme gives resellers a large amount of sales and technical support. Also, the pay-as-they-grow local area network core technology eXpandable Resilient Networking (XRN), which 3Com introduced last year, brought it back into the corporate frame.
Tara Mullally, international channel marketing manager at 3Com, said that being on the short list shows how far the company has come in the past year.
"We are committed to maintaining our channel-based sales model, and being nominated has certainly enhanced 3Com's perception among customers and partners," she said.
"We'd obviously be delighted to win the award but are thrilled to have been recognised through the nomination."
Avaya is a new name on the short lists, its appearance providing a clear indication of the impact telephony is having on the channel.
Over the past year the vendor has been building relationships with business partners in both the data and voice arenas, as well as with the new breed of convergence resellers.
As a result, its indirect sales to the corporate market grew from 61 per cent for the year ending August 2002 to 64 per cent for the six months to May 2003. Avaya runs a full channel support programme and offers quarterly marketing masterclasses for accredited resellers.
Other initiatives include the C-Com (Converged Communications) Academy, which aims to build awareness of the benefits of IP telephony and fast-track training.
The company is now established as one of the key players in the telephony market. Synergy Research Group's report on enterprise voice over IP for the third calendar quarter of 2002 ranked Avaya number two in the world, with 22 per cent of the IP telephony market.
One of its main rivals is Cisco, which has been highly active in the channel over the past 12 months.
It has increased its focus on the technology skills of key resellers and provided individual career certifications, customer satisfaction targets and higher levels of pre-and post-sales support.
The company funds an objective third party to conduct annual audits of its Silver and Gold partners to ensure that only the highest-quality resellers are part of the programme.
Its Partner Locator website, which lists resellers along with their qualifications, gets nearly six million hits a year from customers, other partners and Cisco staff seeking to locate the right partner.
It also runs regular customer satisfaction surveys and has continued to evaluate its partner requirements.
To keep the playing field as level as possible, it has redesigned discount structures to ensure that value-add partners are not at a disadvantage compared with pure hardware resellers.
John Donovan, Cisco unified channels and alliances director UK, believes the company has a reasonable chance of walking away with the Corporate award.
"We are delighted to be nominated. The channel is critical to our success and we have implemented new programmes that are designed to improve our partners' profitability," he said.
Fujitsu Siemens Computers has also flourished in spite of testing market conditions. Over the past year it has invested in the corporate space, recruiting senior sales and marketing professionals.
In particular, it has worked on countering the threat from rival Dell, and has already seen overall corporate business grow by 66 per cent during the past financial year.
Part of this success has been due to its build-to-order customisation scheme, which has proved vital in winning desktop PC roll-outs for large organisations such as the Post Office, BT and the Inland Revenue.
The company claims the programme enables partners to guarantee build specifications for desktop systems over entire project lifecycles.
By significantly strengthening its corporate sales capability, Fujitsu Siemens has successfully developed a 'pull model' for its corporate resellers during the past year, securing key project business from major customers such as Deutsche Bank, Centrica, Cable & Wireless and NTL.
Hewlett Packard must again be one of the favourites for the Corporate Vendor Partner of the Year award, purely on the grounds of its influence on the market.
HP has started to introduce new initiatives to develop its business, of which Top Config is the latest and most high-profile. It is aimed at countering the direct threat, extending choice for customers and taking care of logistics.
In addition, the company's Top Value scheme provides in-stock availability on its best-selling promotional products. HP also provides the best prices up-front and manages inventory for partners.
The company has addressed vertical sectors this year through campaigns such as Laptops for Teachers, and has made an additional five per cent discount available for all networking deals in the public sector to help resellers win business.
HP has been responsive to the corporate channel's needs. To get stocks moving in May, it ran the three-day Crazy Day incentive on the P4 Space Saver PCs, and it has conducted a number of marketing campaigns and promotions directed at large organisations.
Andy Vickers, channel and SME director for HP in the UK, said: "I sincerely feel we are in a strong position to win this award as we have been working hard with the channel, particularly on the successful roll-out of PartnerOne [HP's partner programme], which is having a very positive impact on our partners' bottom lines."
With storage sales booming, Veritas is also a strong contender for the award. Its UK commercial channel has current turnover of $35m, with 12 people in the sales team.
Fifty-two per cent of this revenue comes from its 20 corporate resellers, including Civica, Bytes, Computacenter, SCC and Pheonix.
Helen Wood, distribution manager for the company, said she was delighted to be nominated in the Corporate category.
"Winning would be amazing but getting this far is an achievement when you compare the size of Veritas with an HP or a Microsoft," she said.
The main Veritas Partner Programme has been updated to ensure that it helps partners grow their business and maximise profitability.
It provides them with access to a range of resources and also helps them to develop their sales skills in accordance with customers' needs.
Whoever wins, all the vendors that have been nominated can be pleased with their achievements. In a market that has focused on cutting costs, they have done well to maintain business levels in the corporate sector.
Book your table now
This year's Channel Awards will be presented on Wednesday 19 November at Battersea Park in London.
Voting for the awards is being verified by the Audit Bureau of Circulation.
Fujitsu Siemens Computers
Channel Awards voting short list 2003
Corporate Vendor Partner
SME Vendor Partner
BT Indirect Channels
Specialist Vendor Partner
Parity ICT IT Partnerships
Corporate Distribution Partner
SME Distribution Partner
Specialist Distribution Partner
Outstanding Product of the Year
AMD Opteron 64bit processor
Intel Centrino processor
Microsoft Windows Server 2003
Acer TravelMate 800 series
D-Link DSL-604+ wireless modem router
Smart Board SB-560
HP/Compaq Tablet PC TC1000
Bluesocket WG-2100 wireless gateway
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