Softchoice gives VARs a SPA treatment

For more than a year Toronto-based SoftChoice Corp. has been working with local VARs as part of a strategy to get deeper with customers.

Called the SoftChoice Partner Alignment (SPA) program, it has been used predominantly in the U.S., but does have a few Canadian partners in place — most notably Legend Corp. of Toronto.

David MacDonald, president and CEO of SoftChoice, said the SPA program really helps the company in the U.S. because of its size more so than in Canada. But he wants to foster this program in Canada aggressively for 2007.

“In local markets we do not have the feet on the street. We do virtual consulting and work with lots of local VARs and integrators to help us with the customer,” MacDonald said.

He added that internal research shows 60 per cent of SoftChoice customers in the U.S. and Canada have in-house IT resources, while 40 per cent do not.

Also part of the deeper relationship strategy is partnering with broadline distributors Tech Data and Ingram Micro on hardware rollouts.

The SPA program was initially created to support SoftChoice’s U.S. business.

“We found that in the U.S. in particular there are big guys like EDS, Perot Systems and IBM Global Services, and then there is a big drop down to regional players. We find they are way better than the big national guy. And the national guys do not want to engage with smaller customers,” MacDonald said.

Customer-facing is shared by SoftChoice and the local partners. Integration contracts are not part of the SPA program.

“This program works really well because we are experts in licensing and products and they are experts in integration. For the local partner they do not have to do that much selling and they can use SoftChoice leads instead of selling,” MacDonald said.

The company has four call centres in the U.S. and Canada, TechCheck Services, and a virtual hardware supply chain available for SPA program.

TechCheck services is a certified IT asset management program that can ascertain a customers’ software licenses, policy compliance, hardware deployment and a harvesting service that leverages the information from your software metering application and compares them against usage. This TechCheck service helps a customer get its money’s worth on software.

“The key here is we do not have to phone the customer and sell. We can focus on their needs and through TechCheck it’s not about price or selling the lowest price. The focus is on customer needs,” MacDonald said.

With the virtual hardware supply chain there is no hardware in stock. Last year SoftChoice, which gained its reputation and success as a software reseller, shipped more than 48,000 PCs and more than 18,000 printers without carrying any inventory. This is done through XML services offered by its distribution partners. MacDonald said that about 70 per cent of all hardware shipments are at the customer site within 48 hours.

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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