Make your vote count

The second annual Channel Middle East Awards will take place later this month, but you've only got until the end of this week to have your say on the outcome of the reader-voted categories.

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By  Andrew Seymour Published  March 9, 2009

The second annual Channel Middle East Awards will take place later this month, but you've only got until the end of this week to have your say on the outcome of the reader-voted categories.

The competition among this year's finalists is as fierce as it gets, with eight vendors and five distributors battling it out for the honours.

Once again there are two reader-voted awards up for grabs, the Best Vendor Channel Programme of the Year and Best Growth Initiative by a Distributor. Both titles carry considerable prestige since they are voted for by you - the resellers, VARs, retailers and systems integrators who know what ingredients it takes to implement a successful partner scheme or initiative.

So, which companies have made the cut this year and what have they done for the Middle East reseller community to deserve their moment in the spotlight?

Let's start with the Best Vendor Channel Programme of the Year category, which has eight contenders representing almost every sector of the market.

Partner programmes continue to be a vital cog in the channel wheel by arming resellers with the sales, technical and financial resources to excel in the market place. Capable vendors have quickly realised that a solid partner programme can have a massive impact on partner proficiency and customer satisfaction.

That is certainly true of Acer, which has bolstered its share of the Middle East SMB space following the launch of its Active Programme, a scheme that offers partners dollar incentives for achieving certain volume parameters. Registered resellers also have access to special benefits, such as increased warranties and centralised marketing activities.

Acer's Active Programme isn't the only initiative packed with useful content. IP telephony vendor Avaya provides a compelling mix of target-based incentives and sales tools for VARs willing to invest in its BusinessPartner Programme, even funding an independently-audited customer satisfaction scheme to provide partners with feedback on their business.

It is imperative for vendors to evolve their partner programmes to suit the changing needs of the market and that is illustrated by EMC. The storage vendor's Velocity Partner Programme was a finalist in this category last year and is shortlisted again following a series of enhancements during the past year, including the launch of specialisations in five key storage and security solution areas.

Another vendor that has made huge strides with its partner programme is Juniper. Its J-Partner Programme is now one of the most comprehensive in the business, allowing partners to specialise in their areas of expertise and offering a generous range of financial discounts and incentives.

Elsewhere in the networking channel, Netgear's Partner Specialisation Programme enjoyed a twofold increase in Middle East membership during the first six months of its launch, reflecting its endorsement by partners addressing the SMB sector.

The remaining finalists in the Best Vendor Programme of the Year category are all software companies - Microsoft, RSA and Symantec.

Microsoft has constructed a scheme that reaches out to its diverse network of ISV, VAR and integrator allies in the form of its Gulf Partner Programme. It guarantees partners a range of advantages, including access to training resources, account managers and numerous sales resources.

RSA's SecurWorld Programme has come on leaps and bounds in the past year courtesy of greater marketing funds for partners and attractive rebate offers on certain product lines, while Symantec's pursuit of opportunities in the SMB channel has seen the successful roll-out of its Aspire Initiative.

The programme offers significant rebates for partners that over-achieve on licence sales, as well as automatic maintenance renewal updates to ensure potential services revenues are maximised.

A broader summary of each finalist can be found on the official awards website, which is listed at the bottom of this page, along with the companies competing in the reader-voted distribution category.

Five finalists are vying for the Best Growth Initiative by a Distributor accolade. Each entry is very different to the other, but all have had a positive impact on the reseller channel in some way.

In Saudi Arabia, IT distributor Al Rammah has boosted uptake of Netgear equipment by developing a cash and points promotion specifically tailored to the local market. It supported the initiative with a host of related brand awareness activities, including shelf branding for power retailers and signage for VARs.

Security specialist Computerlinks opened a fully-fledged training facility in Dubai last year, which resulted in it providing sales, pre-sales and technical sessions on vendors such as WebSense and RSA. Free Juniper training culminated in more than 130 engineers gaining expertise in various technologies.

Supplies and consumables ace Despec has also demonstrated the value of investing in customers with the roll-out of a loyalty programme awarding partners redeemable points for orders exceeding US$10,000. The distributor claims the programme led to a 63% spike in sales.

The final two contenders in the distribution category are MTC and Westcon Middle East Group.

Components distributor MTC opened a state-of-the-art packaging unit for GENX USB flash drives and Xtreme memory cards last year, resulting in a faster response time to local orders, while Westcon's six-step selling cycle is an internally-developed approach that provides VARs with everything they need to manage the sales cycle from preparation to implementation, including market analysis data, web-based training and a portfolio of services.

So which vendor and distributor do you think should be rewarded for their programme or initiative when the Channel Middle East Awards take place at The Westin on Monday 23rd March?

Cast your vote now by visiting www.itp.net/events/channelmeawards/voting.php

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