For distributors, staying relevant means they have to constantly be on the lookout for new solutions they can offer VARs. If they don’t, they could risk losing those partners to other distributors that offer more value-add around their products.
Avnet seems to be well aware of this need, and it’s been busy on the “new solutions” front – from rolling out new document and content management solutions, to a new partnering network, to hosted messaging services.
In December, the distie acquired the IT solutions division of Acal, a U.K.-based distributor, including its Headway Technology Group that specialized in document imaging solutions from the likes of Canon, Fujitsu and Kodak. At the time, VARs over in North America wondered what that would mean for them – and now we’re starting to find out.
Avnet’s strategy has been to provide solutions around certain markets, where VARs can build up a services business around those solutions. Thanks to Acal’s expertise, it’s now planning to roll out document and content management solutions over the next six months, as well as training for partners looking to do more work with the government. Acal had already built up a strong business around this area, and was the second-largest document and content management distributor in Europe.
Avnet is also rolling out a three-day course through Avnet University on how to do business with the government (it already offers something similar for the healthcare market).
For many VARs, especially smaller ones, venturing into government, healthcare and other verticals is something they may not have considered before – since they don’t want to walk onto a customer site without a good sense of how that industry works. This is where training comes in – and the advantage of distributor-sponsored training is that you learn about a wide variety of products, as opposed to just vendor-specific ones. For both of these verticals, it’s unlikely that VARs will rely on only one brand or product set – it’s a matter of integrating the best of the best.
So, part of this overhaul includes a new partnering network, which will help VARs connect with ISVs that already serve these markets.
Avnet also announced its OneTech Hosted Exchange Services, which is basically an integrated messaging management service using Microsoft Exchange Server (so, it can be used for hosted mailboxes, compliance, filtering, archiving, mobile device support and anti-virus/anti-spam protection).
Again, this comes back to the whole “new solutions” front, where something like this would fit nicely into a SaaS offering (and beef up the services side of a VAR’s business). Without, of course, having to make that upfront investment. SaaS is supposedly going to continue to be a hot market, no matter what happens with the economy.
Key features include audit trails and intelligent content analysis to detect potential violations, so this could be sold as a solution that will keep customers compliant.
In today’s world, VARs have to stay relevant, but so do their distributors, and coming up with a total package around a product set is a good way to target those potentially lucrative verticals.