I have not gone off on this one before and I am in the mood to write so I thought I rant about two of my favorite topics. I am sure you are wondering what they are so here you go:
- The VAR aka “Valueless Annoying Reseller”
- The PS aka “Please Stop” only agnostic partner
The VAR or Value Added Reseller… IMO is an acronym that should be reserved for niche players who focus on a specific technology segment. Why? A VAR should bring some semblance of tangible value to a specific market (technological, geographical, intellectual, etc…) that outshines the manufacturer. This in no way states that there can not be a super VAR, a VAR that displays superior competence in a number of technology disciplines. The value of the VAR typically presents itself in the form of practical application of the technology and ultimately the development of some level intellectual property built on the foundation provided by the OEM. The VAR to me should represent a field based integrator rich in engineering talent. A VAR should bring together technology, process, best practices and intellect to develop offerings that differentiate a solution in the market place. Where my annoyance mostly lies is with the “expert” VAR that represents 5000 products and employs 50 people. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that this “VAR” can not possibly be a subject matter expert in all 5000 products. If the OEM who employs 10s of thousands struggles to understand, test and integrate the 100s of products that they manufacture it would be moronic to believe that the VAR who reps those 100s of products along with 1000s of other products has it covered. The true VAR is focused, they understand practically what can be delivered within a finite product set and is focused on leveraging these technologies to solve business problems. The reality is the VAR market has become what I like to call the “smorgasbord sale” when in reality it should be the “sit down sale with French service”.
Now onto the even more annoying “PS only agnostic partner”. The pitch here is that because this 50 person company only provides services and they don’t care who you source the product from that they have some level of agnosticism. The answer is that they do, the problem is they also have skills that are wide not deep, often the jack of all trades master of none – certifications trump practical experience in this space. The concept of owning a business solution end-to-end is a nearly impossible feat with this partner. Experts in the PS (Please Stop) regardless of the platform? IMO the “PS” agnostic partner is dangerous because unlike the VAR (Valueless Annoying Reseller) who is looking to be a fulfillment channel (no risk here, low cost provider of product – nothing more) the PS partner is looking to deliver business solutions – The words “agnostic”, “engineer” and “technology” should never be uttered in the same breadth – technologists are some of the most opinionated people on the planet, so it just does not work for me. If you don’t believe me just take a look around the blogsphere to see just how opinionated we are, it just is not possible to do this day in and day out and not formulate an opinion. A deep understanding of the physical infrastructure is pretty important when architecting a solution, and even more importing when implementing the architecture. Bottom line is the more practical experience you have the more apt you are to steer clear of problem architectures and save the customer time and money.
Finally, last night I was laying in bed and thinking about the real value of the VAR? Having worked for both the OEM and the VAR here is what I have come with. A good OEM puts their best and brightest into the product development cycle, this usually limits the amount of time they can spend solving unique customer problems. A good VAR has their best and brightest on the front-lines working with customers and leveraging their deep skill set in a focused technology to solve business problems. A good PS organization is focused on business process and not technology (i.e. – Accenture, CSC, BearingPoint, etc…) these companies are typically segmented by vertical markets (i.e. – Financial Services, Life Sciences, etc…) because their value is in coupling the business process with technology. Another word that accurately depicts the PS focused organization is scale, these businesses are built to be able to through people at a problem. PS only organizations who do note adhere to the rules that I have outlined above IMO are more consistent with staff augmentation and NOT professional services.