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Sun 12 Oct 2008 01:39 PM

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True value will win through

The race to develop and market services that make the job of a reseller easier has only just begun, says Andrew Seymour.

It has to be said that the value-added distribution model in the Middle East has made considerable progress during the last few years. But the race to develop and market services that ostensibly make the job of a reseller easier has only just begun.

When getting into this subject it is important to make a distinction between real value-added distribution and regular distribution functions, such as stock management, logistics services and credit extension. While those functions undoubtedly possess a ‘value’ — both tangibly and financially — they shouldn’t be confused with the kind of focused technical- and people-based services that genuine VADs have placed at the heart of their model.

There is a tendency for some IT distributors to believe that they can sign three or four enterprise brands, bundle them all together and, hey presto, they’ve got a readymade ‘value add’ division on their hands. In reality, true value-added distribution is far more sophisticated and elaborate. Those with ambitions to flourish in this space need to acknowledge that point before going any further.

This is an industry that frequently finds itself wrapped in marketing speak and, as a result, the term ‘value-added’ gets used far too loosely. I accept that you’re never going to prevent this from happening — which is exactly why distributors with serious VAD aspirations must continue making the investments that distinguish what they do from more mainstream competition.

In this past week, networking VAD Westcon has attempted to raise the bar by rolling out its ServiceVantage programme in the region through subsidiaries Comstor and Online. The company has a whole raft of innovative programmes and initiatives at its disposal in Europe and the rate at which they are embraced by partners upon being transplanted here will be interesting to monitor.

It goes without saying that what works in Europe or the US rarely works without modification over here, but if ever there was an area capable of disputing that theory then it is the business of value-added services. VARs and integrators that understand the game know that if a distribution partner offers services that can improve their own efficiency then they would be foolish not to explore them at the very least.

In the instance of Westcon, its ServiceVantage scheme promises assistance in areas such as project management, remote technical support, wireless site surveys and implementation services — duties that are over and above the normal services provided by distributors.

Other VADs in the region have also recently made advancements in terms of proof-of-concept facilities and technical consulting resources as they look to ensure customer satisfaction throughout all stages of the sales process and it is precisely these types of services that will make the difference in the future.

Loyalty has always been a concept that distributors in this region have craved, yet have found difficult to breed, but the new generation of VADs stand an excellent chance of overcoming that conundrum by effectively marketing the services they offer.

If that happens then you can expect the polarisation of conventional IT distribution and value added distribution to intensify more quickly than it has done already, justifying the groundwork that VADs have put into developing their offering. Then it’s up to both vendors and resellers to recognise how they can turn this to their advantage.

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Calvin 11 years ago

This article is by far, a dreamy, idealistic , no-hardline-experience one made. Andrew, keep your "dream world" eschews to yourself. You as an editor have some standing. You are tarnishing that by showing to the region and people in this biz how non-realistic and boy-scout(ish) you are. There is a saying : "those who can't do, "teach" ".