Getting friendly with the enemy

The concept of resellers working in complete harmony to manage and deliver projects still has a long way to go.

  • E-Mail
By  Andrew Seymour Published  June 4, 2008

The concept of resellers working in complete harmony to manage and deliver projects still has a long way to go before it can ever be considered a widely accepted practice in the Middle East channel.

Although that's not the news enterprise vendors want to hear, it is still painfully clear that the notion of ‘co-opetition' leaves most resellers and integrators feeling more than a little nervous.

On paper the argument for partners ignoring their competitive instincts and working in tandem to carry out projects makes perfect sense. End-users increasingly want IT solutions that encompass a plethora of hardware, software and consultancy, but procuring this from a single supplier is rarely as easy as it sounds. Most resellers won't hold such a full-ranging repertoire of skills, either because it's too expensive to do so or because it's not the business model they wish to pursue.

If you're a company specialising in a certain area - a pure applications provider, say - then this scenario is ultimately more binary and less problematic. Partnering with a hardware integrator or a services expert on a project isn't really going to cause you much conflict or weaken your position.

In fact, this kind of arrangement, as well as the traditional sub-contracting activity that takes place in the market, happens all the time - but it's massively different to the all-out partnering that vendors are increasingly calling for.

In my opinion, if vendors want to see the fully-flourishing ‘channel ecosystems' they excitedly talk about then they will need to drive a great deal of the momentum themselves. Creating an environment where resellers interact and engage with each other is not a straightforward exercise. It means coming up with practical ways to not only facilitate the process, but ensure compelling incentives for partners to work in such a way.

Unfortunately it is not as effortless as providing partners with a portal to locate companies that might carry the missing skills they need to complete a solution. That serves as nothing more than a glorified phone directory or an accessory to the conventional sub-contacting activities I just mentioned. It certainly won't encourage the same level of partner integration that vendors are hoping for.

For many resellers, the reservations they have about channel ecosystems are always chipping away at the back of their minds. How they get their head around the idea of working with companies they'd usually consider competitors and what steps they must take to protect ownership of the customer are just two of the major puzzles vendors must solve. In addition, there is also the question of how each company's role in the equation is defined.

Some vendors are beginning to recognise these concerns. IBM recently delivered its ecosystem message at its business partner conference in the UAE. Through various programmes it intends to introduce to the region, the company appears to be addressing some of the grievances resellers have.

For a start, IBM has recognised that partners are fearful of doing all the legwork for a deal only to see it plundered by a rival at the last minute. Alternatively, they are concerned about collaborating with other parties and then ending up embroiled in an ugly mess when it comes to determining who takes what margin from the deal. IBM's decision to provide financial incentives at each stage of the sales cycle - identification, closure and delivery - should go some way to alleviating partner apprehension. It should also be the first step that other vendors with serious ecosystem aspirations take.

IBM wouldn't go as far as saying that resellers who fail to embrace its ecosystem vision would slip down the partner pecking order, but the amount of lip service it is paying to the subject is a strong indication of how importantly it regards the topic.

There are Middle East resellers that buy into the ecosystem concept and are using it to their advantage, but the level of doubt which still exists in the mainstream channel won't ever evaporate unless vendors that champion this form of partnering develop workable systems and programmes. Put simply, vendors have a bigger role than they think in convincing partners that dancing with their competitors won't just lead to disaster.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code