The number of core vendors the average UK reseller carries has fallen significantly over the past two years, CRN research suggests.
After hearing anecdotal evidence that a range of factors - from vendor pressure to the need to reduce ROI among cost-conscious end users and rein in training costs - is driving many resellers to work with fewer manufacturers, CRN decided to put this to the test by polling our audience.
The survey of over 100 UK resellers suggested the average (adjusted mean) number of core vendors a reseller carries has fallen from 18 to under 14 over the past two years.
Meanwhile, the average number of core security vendors resellers carry has fallen from over six to under four over the same time period. Some 36 out of 109 respondents polled said they now work with just two security vendors.
The results of the research were discussed in a recent CRN roundtable, commissioned by Sophos and featuring comment from two resellers - Trustmarque and Foursys - both on board with the concept of pushing suites of products from one vendor where possible.
Of course, cut too far and resellers risk compromising their status as independent trusted advisors to their customers. Putting too much faith in just one or two manufacturers also carries obvious commercial risks.
But Graham Curran, chief technology officer at Trustmarque, said during the discussion that resellers can get too hung up on pushing best-of-breed products in each technology category. End users are looking to work with as few products, part numbers and management consoles as possible, with 65 per cent of resellers we polled agreeing that - by and large - their customers are looking to reduce the number of vendors they work with.
"We are always advising our customers to think about consolidation, automation and implementation to keep their cost base down," said Curran. "If you have lots of best-of-breed products, the more discrete products you have, the number of integration parts you have will increase exponentially."
He added: "The cost of being brilliant at absolutely everything is too much for most organisations and they end up not implementing best-of-breed products in quite the right way."
James Miller, managing director at security VAR Foursys, said during the event that his firm had moved to pare down vendor partners a few years ago.
"It's important for our sales teams to have confidence in what we deliver," he said.
James Vyvyan, regional vice president UK & I, Sophos (pictured), said: "I think we should get away from the idea that having best of breed in each category is better. People want something that works. Good security is security that is deployed, turned on and used, not the most features you can get or the best report you can have from one of the analysts."
Some 58 per cent of the 109 resellers questioned in our poll said they had reduced the number of core vendors they work with over the last couple of years. Of this, 18 per cent had reduced it significantly, with 35 per cent reducing it slightly. Some 21 per cent said the number had remained the same, with only 26 per cent saying the number had increased.
For security specifically, 12 per cent had cut their vendor tally significantly, with a further 28 per cent reducing it slightly and 39 per cent keeping it the same. Just 17 per cent had increased the number of security vendors they work with, with four per cent not selling security at all.
Out of seven possible factors those who had reduced vendor numbers were asked to rate out of five, increased simplicity from a product management perspective received the highest rating both in general and for security specifically, netting a mean score of 3.8 and 4.1 per cent respectively.
Lack of bandwidth to deal with a large number of vendors netted mean scores of 3.4 and 3.7. Savings on training and accreditation was also deemed important by many, receiving mean scores of 3.4 and 3.6.
Consolidation of the vendor landscape (3.1 and 3.3), the fact there are fewer throats to choke if something goes wrong (3 and 3.1) and the penchant among end users to consolidate their IT or IT security estates (2.9 and 3.1) are also providing impetus to reduce vendor numbers. Pressure from vendors to increase focus on them (2.8 and 3.1) was considered less important.
Firm says enterprise business has performed 'weaker than originally expected'
Top executives from nine VARs, including Computacenter, Bell Integration, XMA, ANS and Epaton, weigh in on which server, storage and networking technologies will be red hot next year
Are partners encouraged by the big changes coming to Cisco next year? Josh Budd, content editor of CRN sister publication Channelnomics Europe, finds out
Thomas Kurian will join the company next week and transition into the top role in January