A questionable survey

It’s a tough world out there and to succeed you’ve got to put your best face forward and fight.

One way Microsoft has chosen to fight Linux is by paying IDC to do a profitability survey of partners that have earned a competency in some of its solutions. Unfortunately, the report that emerged hasn’t made the battle any clearer.

It’s safe to assume Linux is the target of this less-than-enlightening report, which was issued earlier this month, because Matthew Lawton, one of the study’s authors, told me that the so-called control group specifically included partners selling either Linux or Windows infrastructure solutions.

The study looked to me as if Microsoft was looking for a way to say to VARs considering straying – or even sharing – the Windows path, “See, here’s an independent organization that says taking our training pays off.”

Why bother? IDC offers a fig leaf to Microsoft and other vendors who hire it to do such partner surveys. Partners are unlikely to open their books to vendors. IDC, which asks for partner financial numbers in confidence has credibility – the vendor can’t say the figures are cooked.

However, the survey itself might be slightly boiled. What vendor asks partners to be surveyed that doesn’t already know its certification programs have been put together with great care to ensure partners benefit? Especially one like Microsoft, which isn’t shy about boasting how much it sinks into partner programs.

So first off, it should come as no surprise that the 375 partners surveyed who took a Microsoft competency course do better than those who don’t. The sticky point is how much better.

That depends on what’s being measured, and the control group it’s being measured against.

IDC claims to have created 14 measures of business performance, ranging from obvious things such as revenue growth to indicators I haven’t heard of such as capacity utilization (defined as how busy technical staff are).

Then there’s the so-called control group of 642 solution providers, VARs and consultants, which IDC dubs the “industry benchmark.” In light of the fact that there is no accepted standard for resellers, I think that lays it on a bit thick.

Finally, IDC claims to dismiss some industry myths. One problem is the unexplained source of these myths. Another is that common sense destroys many of them (i.e.: Small deals are less attractive than large-sized ones. It depends on how long it takes to land the deal).

But there is one howler in the group: Linux is more profitable than Windows. I haven’t heard that one. Wonder who supplied it?

Channel profitability won’t be decisive in persuading a reseller to become a vendor’s partner. Product quality and the ability to solve customer problems will be the determining factors.

These will determine what customers want, and VARs, ISVs, solution providers and consultants will follow.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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