VARs could be fast-tracked into SME and vertical sector accreditations, if plans by Technology Means Business, the government-backed accreditation scheme, come to fruition.
At its official relaunch last week, the organisation, which is run by the IT Forum Foundation (ITFF) and backed by the Department of Trade and Industry and the British Chambers of Commerce, set out its objectives.
The scheme gives a Kitemark-style accreditation to certify individuals who supply IT to SMEs. If a VAR has more than two employees accredited then it can be called an Approved Centre.
Mike Briercliffe, chairman of the ITFF, said the scheme will now be split into two levels. There will be two accreditations for individuals - silver and gold - and a separate one for businesses.
"By adding a lower tier we hope to open the door to more individuals," he said. "We want to extend the scheme beyond just offering good IT advice to SMEs to good delivery through the business accreditation scheme."
In the longer term, Briercliffe said the ITFF intends to link up with non-profit organisations in other sectors. He will be talking to public-sector body Intellect, which advises the government on IT suppliers, and the National Computing Centre (NCC), and he is already in discussions with accountancy body the IAAITC.
"We are looking to provide equivalence in standards across all sectors. Eventually I hope other vertical trade bodies will help us to define the standards of specialisation in their sector and recommend VARs to their members," Briercliffe said.
Matthew Knell, UK SME channel manager at McAfee, said: "This would make life simpler. If end-users use only firms with the accreditation then VARs will see its value and become accredited to differentiate themselves."
David Inscoe, sales and marketing director at VAR The Lapworth Consultancy, an Approved Centre, said: "We spend a lot on training. This means we can channel that more effectively and have a fast track into other accreditations and verticals."
Mike Dean, director for membership at the NCC, said: "Trying to identify a supplier for SMEs is a nightmare. Any scheme that simplifies this process would be very welcome."
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