Technology vendors should investigate evolving networks of system integrators, independent vendors, and resellers or lose out on possible business opportunities, according to a Toronto-based industry analyst.</p

Partner-to-partner networking is evolving into a defining trend that will impact vendor-partner relationships and behaviour, a recent report by IDC Canada said.

While many such alliances have existed for years, 2008 will witness their “formalization”, according to Paul Edwards, director of small and medium size business and channel research for IDC Canada.

He said if vendors fail to understand and react to these networks, “their influence over their partners could be diluted and they could miss some very important opportunities.”

Partners such as software integrators, independent software vendors and value-added resellers (VARs) form partnerships among themselves in order to compete against bigger players.

Partners want to achieve growth and obtain new clients but they don’t always have all the components customers seek. While they can build what the customer wants, a less expensive option is to form a partnership with another vendor partner who has the needed expertise.

This year, IDC foresees a greater number of Canadian VARs building peer networks in order to offer complementary products and services to SMBs.

“It’s all about accessing complementary assets,” said Edwards.

Unfortunately, the IDC analyst said, not a lot of vendors are attempting to study these networks with a view to developing a corporate partner strategy.

However, he said among certain technology behemoths there is some attempt to come to grips with this trend. “At least I see vendors such as IBM, SAP and Microsoft initiating efforts to understand the partnership networks”.

If a vendor is able to reach out to the partner networks and offer them support, the vendor could earn the network’s loyalty, said Edwards.

Microsoft has a partner programs that foster networking among its partners, according to Diana Piquette, license compliance manager for Microsoft Canada.

The program, she said, helps partners build competency in their chosen market by providing resources and access to beta tests, software development kits, case study opportunities, discounts as well as PR and promo support.

Meanwhile, resellers also stand to profit if they can adjust and take advantage of the growing demand for software-as-a-service (SaaS) in the SMB space, Edwards said.

SMBs are turning to SaaS in a big way because of the key advantages they offer of packaged software products, he said.

As SaaS reduces in-house maintenance and management support, and is available at a lower price point, its an attractive to small businesses,” Edwards said.

At the moment, SMBs are looking for industry expertise and guidance in rolling out SaaS, he said.

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