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GE Access tells VARs to add a zero

Value added distributor unveils new tools and Web portal for partner network; launches program that sends message to grey market users



Keystone, Colo. – Add a zero. That was one of this year’s themes at GE Access’s New Frontiers 2004 conference held at Keystone Resort high in the Rocky Mountains. CEO Anna McDermott challenged 1,100 attendees to find new ways grow their business.

Outsource

Partners were advised

to look for opportunities in RFID and VoIP as well as trends such as utility computing and IT outsourcing to grow their businesses.

McDermott opened her address with another theme: imagination.

“”We challenge you to put your imagination to work,”” she said. “”As business leaders, your most valuable asset is imagination.””

McDermott said technologies such as Radio Frequency Identification and Voice over Internet Protocol are shaping the channel.

IDC predicts RFID will be a U.S. $3 billion market by 2009, said McDermott.

“”That’s a big opportunity for the channel,”” she said.

McDermott said VoIP in the small and medium-business market presents resellers with opportunities to migrate businesses off legacy PBX (private branch exchange) systems. Trends such as utility computing, IT outsourcing and partnering are changing the channel, she said. She also compared utility computing to monthly car payments, which have cost of service rolled into them. “”Instead of selling servers, storage, software and service, we sell computing,”” McDermott said.

She said companies will spend US$16 billion in offshore labour

and US$400 billion in IT outsourcing in 2004.

“”We’re putting our imagination to work to make this a reality for channel partners. Outsourcing requires partners.””

Web-based tools

The distributor launched a new Web-based services toolbox that gives resellers online access to their active contracts, notifies them of service renewal opportunities, and produces a quote or options for renewal that can be sent to their customers.

Britt Hilton, director of sales at Myra Systems Corp., a Sun Services manager and GE Access partner since 1995, said he hopes the online service will allow him to more proactively manage Sun enterprise service contracts.

“”The challenge is to stay on top of what needs to be renewed when,”” said Hilton. “”Anytime you can automate something is a good thing.””

Grey market clamp-down

With the release of a new upgrade program for Sun resellers, GE Access also said it expects to grow its percentage of Sun Microsystems upgrade purchases and reduce the number of Sun upgrades sold on the grey market in Canada. Called Preferred Upgrade Program, resellers will now be able to earn rewards through Sun’s Upgrade Advantage Program (UAP).

“”We’ve worked with Sun last year in the U.S. and now we’re working with the Canadian team,”” said Frances Draper, vice-president of Sun business group at GE Access.

Last year, the distributor improved Sun’s return-rate in the U.S. on products sent back to the manufacturer. Sun has since implemented a system that tracks products by serial number, which has improved its monitoring capability.

UAP gives resellers a specially priced deal on products with UAP designation if they return the equipment. Sun either scraps or refurbishes and resells the it.

“”Sun has varying degrees of what comes back,”” she said. “”It’s hard to determine whether it’s the reseller or tracking system. We said resellers need to have a clean slate.””

Draper said the upgrade program presents opportunities for growth and for Sun to get out a more cohesive message. The percentage of upgrade sales is 10 times greater in the U.S. than in Canada, she added. Draper declined to attach a number to upgrade sales.

Gary Grimes, vice-president of partner management and sales at Sun, said GE Access has a “”very good”” record on return of equipment, with close to a 100 per cent return rate.

Five pillars for growth

The company is counting on technical leadership, services, customer focus, growth and globalization to maintain its growth, its vice-president of marketing and vendor relations told partners.

Scott Zahl said the distributor is harnessing its employees and partners to create a channel platform.

“”Access Graphics was born with an innovative idea to create a channel platform that’s world class,”” said Zahl.

A Victoria, B.C.-based partner said Zahl’s message holds true for his experience with the distributor over the last nine years.

“”(GE Access’) corporate culture is one that we subscribe to,”” said Britt Hilton, director of sales at Myra Systems Corp. “”Partner relationships are very important to succeed in this industry.

Under services, Zahl discussed GE Access’s recently-launched Multi-Platform Service Program (MSP), which allows its solution providers to sell additional services on multiple platforms including IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Cisco Systems Inc. Gartner predicts that by 2007 half of all IT services sold in the U.S. will be to other IT service providers and not to end users.

Zahl said the firm has signed on five new vendors this year including F5 and McData, and plans to continue expanding the partner community.

“”Many technology vendors are realizing the value of the channel in bringing their products to market,”” he said.

“”We’ll be there to help you navigate. We’ve built a channel platform that’s second to none. We must not forget our roots.””