A lot of owners of software reselling firms, indeed small businesses of all types, were started by tinkerers. These people like inventing, developing, or improving products. In the software business, these are the people who like writing code, developing new applications, or customizing products.
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Assembling products, of course, drew these people into running businesses, something many of them had not planned. A great number of these owners remain untrained or, in some cases, incapable of learning how to handle business operations, or more specifically, how to improve operations.
The tinkerers are especially abundant on the source-code side of the software market. But they are there in other parts of the market. They are often the people in smaller reselling firms that have stayed small because of life-style choices or lack of skill. And they are the people who have difficulty improving their business skills because they have to switch hats so many times day.
The answer is training, and training can only come from only place with any reliability-the vendor.
Of course, this is an expense, but it's one of those things that's also an investment. If software vendors-well, vendors of any things that are sold through a channel-can make their resellers better business people, they will make more money.
Not every reseller will respond. No vendor is likely to lift an unmotivated partner into more productive ranks. But improving those in the middle, even improving top performers, will benefit the vendor by producing more sales.
This is where those tinkerers that can learn can be made more productive by teaching them sales and marketing skills, by showing them how to run the financial end of their businesses, and by showing those who have employees how to hire, and probably showing them how to buy.
In the last two years, analytical and business intelligence packages have been introduced in notable numbers.
So, are businesses using these tools? Or are they afraid to cut the spreadsheet umbilical cord? "Making Sense of Data" explores the success the applications are having.
Document management is hot. But how ready are uses to take the paperless experience onto the Internet? Melissa Klein investigates the pace of the move from packaged software to the Web in "Documents in Hyperspace."
And the Web is a big part of the battle to simplify tracking sales and use taxes. Paul Demery charts the impact of the Web in "The Sales and Use Tax Forest."
In "Portal Power," Associate Editor Riccardo Davis writes about the way different people get different views of data, according to their roles.
I'm fond of saying that all the calculations of how much each desktop PC costs, or what it costs to retrieve lost documents, is often wasted on the smaller businesses. Big business understands cost avoidance. But many small organizations understand only hassle avoidance. They want to cut down time dedicated to one task, so they can spend it on another.
It is the smart vendor that can convey what things really cost and help business people at this level shift their focus away from the clock into things that will save money, and, by making them more efficient, free them for more productive tasks.