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Services Over Software: The Changing Face of the VAR

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Being a technology consultant has changed drastically in the last 25 years as our clients’ needs have grown, their expectations have climbed higher and we contend with competitors around the world, not just around the corner. 

Companies looking to implement a system today want to do much more than replace their accounting package; they want a new end-to-end business management system to make their businesses more efficient. 

There was a time when technology consulting meant selling a computerized accounting/bookkeeping system which was largely focused around general ledger, accounts receivable and accounts payable. At that time, customers were looking for a local, trusted accountant who knew computers well and we often filled that role.  

As the years passed, our business grew and we made margin on sales of hardware and software, and gained services revenue on implementations and their on-going maintenance.  Today, we support and implement all-encompassing ERP systems for global enterprise and mid-market companies.

These days, partner firms no longer make huge returns on software and hardware. The hardware has become standard, so most companies can order it themselves, or move to the cloud to avoid internal maintenance.  And the software, much of which is now available in the cloud, can be purchased directly from the manufacturer which means partners derive little compensation.

To survive without that steady revenue, VARs need to become a world-class professional services firm.

Indeed,  when companies today consider  implementing a new ERP system, they will choose the partner who offers the highest degree of service, because they know that the partner/implementer plays  a role that is equally important, if not more important, than the software itself. The software can only be as good as the processes it’s configured around. Companies looking for excellent software that runs smoothly need a partner who is an expert in industry-best practices. They need a partner who can help transform their business, not just sell, install and implement the technology.

Currently, when companies search for the perfect partner, they are looking beyond only those firms which are geographically convenient. Clients know that the most skilled provider will be a better partner than the most local provider, and they will choose the firm that can offer the best service no matter where that firm is located.

To compete in today’s global market, implementers must focus on building the best set of services they can, perfecting their niche and constantly delivering on quality. Consultants have a single revenue stream: services. As service professionals, we must be very good at what we do and each consultant must become a specialist.

For us, what has worked is becoming renowned experts in the industries we serve that can be called into engagements all over the world. We’ve had to differentiate ourselves in terms of service by providing a “AAA, 24x7x365,” all-inclusive helpdesk which aids our customers and keeps them coming back. 

These differentiators are what have allowed us to survive as the landscape of our industry changes and this is the model by which we believe the industry will need to follow as we see a greater and greater emphasis placed on services over software.

David Weiner is the chief executive officer of Microsoft Dynamics partner UXC Eclipse USA, a subsidiary of Australia-based UXC Eclipse Pty Ltd, and is responsible for the strategy, business development and direction of UXC Eclipse in the United States. Since 2001, he has consulted on and managed over 40 Dynamics implementations in the U.S. as well as internationally. Weiner is a certified AX Master of Application, as well as a PMP certified project manager. He authored an introduction to Dynamics AX book entitled Dynamics AX: A Guide to Microsoft Axapta. 

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