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How to pick a winner

Hyland’s Graham Lewis offers his tips on what to look for when choosing a technology partner

As a value-added reseller (VAR), you no doubt periodically review your product portfolio. Given the abundance of products, solutions and services available, how do you choose which ‘horse’ to back next? Here are four areas you should consider to sort the winners from the also-rans.

1 Reputation
Organisations with an acknowledged reputation for excellence must be doing something right, so the more positive ‘third party’ validation a vendor has for its technology the better. Detailed assessments by established research organisations are useful, because they show a company and its products have come under critical scrutiny. Multiple appearances in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, for instance, or an endorsement by a research heavyweight like Forrester are major pluses.

Ideally, what you also want to see embedded in the organisation’s DNA is evidence of a true partner-centric approach. Is there a vibrant community where people come together to share ideas and insights and to ask questions of the vendor’s experts, or a business unit dedicated to ensuring teams, resources and systems are properly aligned to the partner programme? If there is a stable of support staff, you know you are onto a winner.

2 Longevity and endurance
Good reputations aren’t built overnight, so you should expect to see a track record of solution provision underpinned by some good numbers. If a vendor has been doing the right things consistently over time, customers will have shown their enthusiasm by staying loyal. Customer retention rates of above 75-80% are good; a figure in the 90s is a sign that the company is truly focused on delivering what its customers want long-term.

3 Future-proofing investment
If a technology vendor is going to stay the course, they should have a clear investment roadmap. Vendors that spend a respectable 12-15% of their annual revenue on research and development are demonstrating a serious commitment to the future, as well as recognition that they are part of a dynamic marketplace and willing to adapt.

That said, it’s worth evaluating how investment is being spent to make sure funds haven’t gone into creating a highly complex portfolio that could be challenging for you as a VAR to manage. Look for a diverse portfolio that doesn’t consist of 20 or 30 similar offerings or is based only on cutting-edge technology, but instead seek out an evolving mix of complementary safe-bet ‘foundation’ products alongside ‘outsiders’ that have the potential to surprise.

4 A growth-focused mindset
To ensure they stay at the front of the field, vendors will need to strengthen their market position, either through organic growth or acquisition. Without such ambition, this runner is likely to fade away, as it won’t have the momentum to introduce new products or services or maintain existing ones. Silence about a technology vendor’s future growth could speak volumes.

Ideally, what you need is a company willing to create technology that can integrate with a wide range of business systems or platforms. If it can do that, it will add value by giving customers exactly what they are looking for. That’s collaboration, not competition.

Picking a technology partner is never a completely safe bet; there will always be an inherent uncertainty that can’t be erased from the equation. However, by taking the time to focus on these four fundamentals, you can mitigate much of the risk and increase the likelihood of building a successful partnership based on profitable and sustainable long-term reseller and client relationships.

Graham Lewis is Partnership Manager, UK and Ireland at content management specialist Hyland.

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