Vertical specialization key to success in business analytics

Distributor Avnet Technology Solutions (NYSE: AVT) has launched a new initiative to help its Canadian and U.S. partners close more sales of IBM analytics software. 

“We see it as a huge opportunity in the marketplace as more customers are looking to convert data into actionable information,” said Fred Cuen, senior vice-president and general manager of Avnet’s IBM Solutions group.

As part of its “Destination: Analytics” initiative, Avnet has created a team of business analytics specialists to provide solutions training and marketing programs for its IBM VAR partners. Avnet will also be providing partners with analytics market education, proof of concept solution designs and certification assistance.

Avnet has partnered with IBM for more than 25 years and when the vendor outlined its roadmap to 2015, analytics was a part of its key strategies. “The linkage to their strategy is critical,” Cuen said.

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The distributor has been touting the importance of solutions created for specific verticals, including energy, finance, government, healthcare and retail through its SolutionsPath programs, including the recently launched Data Centre University and cloud workshop initiatives.

Avnet has already built several IBM analytics solutions aimed at particular verticals and is working on creating more within the next three months. “It’s real critical that you’re defining outcomes that are specific to industries,” said Dan Bridenbaugh, director of IBM software solutions at Avnet.

The main product line being pushed is the Cognos business intelligence software line, which came from IBM’s acquisition of Ottawa-based Cognos Inc. in 2008. Bridenbaugh said he’s optimistic about the initiative’s success in the Canadian market, since the product line has a history here in Canada, along with people with the appropriate skill sets.

“We never try to make Canada America because there are differences in how we go to market there,” Cuen said. But in this case, he said he doesn’t see a vast difference in how partners will capitalize on the demand for business analytics.

“We’re requesting that the business partners actively declare … interest in building a practice,” Bridenbaugh said. Avnet will, however, reach out to partners to recruit them into the program as well.

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There is definitely a demand from customers for this kind of solution, said David Traxler, president of VSS Velocity, an IBM analytics partner based in Jackson, Miss. The problem comes with following up and ensuring the clients achieved their goals. “Do they ever get to the realization that they got the return from the tool that they purchased?” he asked.

“From a consulting standpoint, I’d love to never leave a client,” but that’s simply not realistic, Traxler said. “They (Avnet) help us align ourselves to make sure we’ve got the business plan in place,” to succeed in these deals.

“Your relevance is totally dependent upon your skills,” Traxler said. For him, this initiative is going to help with securing more of those skills.

“It’s expensive to have the kind of quality staff and skills that it takes to be … relevant in this industry,” he added. At VSS, for example, Traxler recently hired on a new employee with experience in business intelligence, but who wasn’t familiar with the IBM product set. Investing in training for that person has been expensive and time consuming, so an initiative like Avnet’s will help with cutting those costs. “Any support that we can get from IBM and Avnet is always welcome.”

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Harmeet Singh
Harmeet Singh
Harmeet reports on channel partner programs, new technologies and products and other issues relevant to Canada's channel community. She also contributes as a video journalist, providing content for the site's original streaming video. Harmeet is a graduate of the Carleton University School of Journalism.

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