Mirror Mirror on the Wall…




When speaking to our smaller customers, they are continuously expressing how they are evaluating their options in establishing the best type of relationship with their solution provider as trusted advisors to facilitate the success of their software projects. Buyers in the SMB arena are looking for the right mix between industry expertise, local support and pre-defined product capabilities. The question remains whether this can be delivered directly by a software vendor or through its indirect partner channel. 

If there is anyone worth examining in solidifying a comprehensive partner model for the SMB space, it would be Microsoft. In typical Microsoft fashion, between 2000 and 2002 the software giant quickly acquired Great Plains, Solomon, Axapta and Navision, making their multi-billion dollar play in the enterprise software space resulting in an annual revenue stream of $1billion. Although for Microsoft selling ERP software is a small piece of their business (less than 2%), in the ERP world aimed at Small and Medium businesses Microsoft’s pervasive partner ecosystem has been aggressively capturing market share years prior to Oracle’s and SAP’s recent push in the SMB market. Furthermore, Microsoft’s partner-centric approach has created a customer-friendly philosophy for smaller organizations looking for the right level of expertise from a partner that understands the unique challenges they are facing in their assigned region. The challenge customer’s face when dealing with the huge Microsoft channel is determining the actual expertise partners can bring to the table in solving their issues. In addition, SMB companies are looking for the best technology that can be easily customized to fit their unique business needs.

The reality is in the ERP world 80%-85% of the solutions are ready to go out of the box, while the remaining 15%-20% of product customization is where a VAR can deliver the "V" in VAR. Like any huge channel, it takes a lot of work to separate the best fit solution provider to meet the unique needs of an organization. In this regard, Microsoft was strategic in acquiring vendors that have comprehensive partner programs with strict certification requirements and highly customizable products meeting SMB demands. The best example from Microsoft can been seen with the Dynamics NAV product line that has its roots in a partner program (originally under Danish-based Navision) that established strict partner requirements demanding a minimum of five certified resources in their solution set prior to becoming a "Navision Solution Center," and is also excellent in facilitating the 15%-20% customization issues required to meet customer demands. Obviously, having "Good Stock" is only a starting point. With that in mind, SMB organizations still need to do their own due diligence by carefully evaluating a Microsoft partner’s people and history to find the best trusted advisor to meet their needs. In fact in our recent conversation with ArcherPoint, a Microsoft partner representing the Dynamics NAV solution, we discovered the long history they had with the Navision product since 1988 including the instrumental role they played in bringing Dynamics NAV to North America in the early 1990s. There is a lot of value a solution provider can bring to the table when it has such a long history with the solutions it represents. In general, Microsoft partners who have a past history with the Dynamics NAV solution prior to the acquisition have a higher caliber of product expertise than many of its competitors that built their channel primarily on a "Pay to Play" business model.
 
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