There’s strength in numbers.
In a recent column I related how a session IDC Canada’s recent Directions conference in 2008 put the spotlight on the shift in emphasis from products to services. It’s increasingly hard to make money on hardware and software alone, and the growth of software as a service is accelerating the trend.
At that same session, IDC’s Paul Edwards pointed out one way resellers are rising to the challenge. They’re working together more. And organizations that help them network are part of the answer.
Edwards pointed out a couple of examples: the International Association of Microsoft Certified Professionals (IAMCP) and a consortium called 1Nservice (pronounced “one in service”).
Informal networking has always existed, but groups like these provide some structure to make it easier.
IAMCP started in 1994 in the U.S. and has grown to more than 4,000 members across North America, Europe and Latin America. During the 1990s it was more of an advocacy group for resellers, says Per Werngren, its Stockholm-based international president, but since about 2000 it has focused more on helping members work together.
Partnerships take two forms.
Resellers in the same geographic area with different specialties can co-operate to offer customers a broader range of services, or resellers with similar expertise in different locations can team up to serve customers whose geographic reach exceeds their service areas.
The relationships are directly between the partners, but IAMCP helps them get together. Some chapters hold monthly meetings with “speed networking” sessions as well as informal networking opportunities like lunches.
The Canadian chapter is too geographically dispersed for all members to get together regularly, but there are regular meetings in major centres, says Stuart Crawford, chapter president. IAMCP in Canada favours informal rather than structured networking, he adds.
The Canadian chapter is also more interested in online networking. Several IAMCP members are now participating in the beta test of a new Microsoft initiative called PartnerSpaces, which Crawford describes as a Facebook-like site for Microsoft partners.
Dan Medakovic, vice-president of IAMCP in Canada and vice-president of partner programs at Peterborough, Ont., reseller Operitel Corp., recently attended an IAMCP conference in Brazil where he made several contacts. Operitel is negotiating a reseller agreement with one of those companies, and expects to work with a couple of others.
Edwards says IDC surveyed IAMCP members last year and found 16.3 per cent of them get more than 30 per cent of their revenues from peer-to-peer activities, and another 28.9 per cent get 11 to 30 per cent of revenue from such work.
A small group of systems integrators started 1Nservice in 1998. It stayed “pretty small” for a few years, says Jo Miller, 1Nservice’s director of partner relations, but about four years ago the board of directors “saw a need to expand the scope.” Now 1Nservice covers more services. Its 30 member companies have about offices among them, mainly in North America but with some spilling into Latin America and the U.K.
Members can call on other members to support customers outside their own territories, or to provide expertise they don’t have in-house, Miller says.
Werngren says networking is becoming more important for resellers. “I think that customers want to have relations with less vendors, and then every vendor needs to be able to deliver more or to take responsibility for more things being delivered.”