Disties take on new tactics

Many resellers see lucrative business opportunities in vertical markets, but don’t have the know-how or resources to get started – especially if they’re smaller VARs.

Healthcare, in particular, is one of those opportunities, but the solutions are complex and the market difficult to navigate.

IT spending in healthcare continues, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop anytime soon, especially with an aging baby-boomer population. Many hospitals and clinics are realizing the benefits of integrated systems and electronic patient records – and while many hospitals have already embarked on an IT roadmap, a lot of physicians are still lagging behind. And that means, of course, opportunities for VARs.

The problem is that resellers – and vendors – aren’t able to articulate these solutions, or the return on investment they offer. And this continues to be a barrier to IT implementations in healthcare.

Distributors have a role to play here. VARs don’t always have the leads, know the latest healthcare trends, or even know which trade shows to attend. Add to that myriad vendors and solutions and the need to integrate several different technologies, and things get complicated. Healthcare involves everything from voice to wireless to security to backup to storage – consider how many victims of Hurricane Katrina now have no medical records because they weren’t backed up anywhere. And healthcare also has stringent compliance and privacy requirements.

If VARs don’t understand the intricacies of this sector, they’re going to have a tough time winning over new clients.

But distie Avnet says its VARs have increased sales into the U.S. healthcare sector by more than 40 per cent. It already offers a healthcare “university” as well as marketing and sales training, and now it’s expanding its HealthPath practice for ISVs by offering bundled solutions, including hardware and applications.

Next month it will roll out GovPath, which will mirror HealthPath, for the government sector. The distie already has a government practice, but it’s launching education, training and solutions for different levels of government.

Westcon Group has also made some recent announcements, namely a partner enablement program around the mobility market, called MobilityPoint. But it addresses a similar problem that the healthcare sector has been plagued with, and that’s an inability to articulate solutions and ROI. Not all VARs selling mobility solutions have enough expertise in this area. And the market is just getting more complicated – think voice-over infrastructure or location-based services.

Which is why Westcon’s approach is interesting. Rather than targeting its messaging at VARs, its messaging is around “end-user enablement.” The distie has created customized solutions and collateral for different types of VARs, from networking resellers to security resellers.

This could be the way of the future for complex verticals or markets. The technologies already exist – the real need is for articulation around those technologies.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Vawn Himmelsbach
Vawn Himmelsbach
Is a Toronto-based journalist and regular contributor to IT World Canada's publications.

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