[IMGCAP(1)]In compiling this year’s VAR 100, we surveyed a wide swath of the industry to effectively frame the last year of business for these accounting software resellers, consultants and solutions providers.

Many of the biggest drivers for their success—as outlined in the story accompanying this year’s ranking—were predictably market-driven: rising cloud adoption, globalization, clients’ expanding technology budgets and sophistication. Their challenges sprouted from these victories, namely in hiring and retaining the best professionals to keep pace with their rapid growth—and in a molten-hot market for experienced talent.

But, as is necessary in such a competitive landscape, every VAR is different. Case in point: many of our list-makers and VARs to Watch balk at being categorized as a “VAR” at all. And, legacy branding of our ranking aside, they have a point. Most companies have moved far beyond pure software reselling, if they ever considered it a core function of their business at all.

In representing the diverse spectrum of companies we’ve captured under that banner, I wanted to share some of their insights we didn’t have room to include in the original VAR100 feature story. Common themes, gripes and points of pride arose, of course, but it’s always useful to hear their unique stories, in their own words (with only light edits for AP style and clarity).

Client Needs and Costs

“Clients are much more actively investing in their systems.  They are far more focused on driving efficiency in order to avoid having to hire additional employees.”

--ABC Computers

“We are address[ing] a seemingly growing wave of ERP ‘replacements’, addressing 6-10 year old on-premise deployments that are due for an upgrade.”

--Trajectory

 “As we cater to companies who have outgrown free or low-cost solutions appropriate for start-up companies, price point of any magnitude tends to be an obstacle.”

-- LBMC Technologies

“Customers have smaller budgets, are willing to live with good enough, more cloud focused, general move from on-premise to hosted, [fewer] customizations.”

-- SSI Consulting

“They are more educated, require more precise and specific up-front commitment level and detail related to their projects in an attempt to eliminate change orders and overages. This is a good thing in my opinion because we are more diligent in our discovery as well as holding them accountable for their participation in the project as well.”

-- RKL eSolutions

“Our current software providers and competitors alike are pushing many new products and services. There can be a lot of value in those options, but also a lot of misinformation.  Peeling back the layers and determining the actual value proposition to the customer requires a good investment of time. What looks good in a demo, doesn’t necessarily make it ready for prime time.”       

-- InterDyn Artis

“We are seeing a definite drive for self-serve content, real-time access, and solutions-on-demand. Customers want to be able to see behind the curtain, and even be responsible for some work under the hood. In addition, customers everywhere, from retail to manufacturing are tired of disparate systems, old, clunky hardware and spotty remote access. They want their entire business ecosystem to work together, which means the ability for ERP and CRM systems to play nice is critical.”

-- Crestwood Associates

“We’ve seen the demand for solutions that unify physical and digital shopping experiences within one platform grow exponentially; this is what we refer to as the omnichannel experience and NetSuite is the only platform that can deliver this vision end to end.  As the world becomes more interconnected, our clients want to ensure that their businesses are a part of that changing ecosystem, and our goal is to ensure that happens.”

-- Explore Consulting

“Over the last year, we’ve seen more and more of our clients adopting more of the modern buyer behavior of doing their own research and educating themselves before they engage with us.  Having clients bring us into the process further down the pipeline can at times be beneficial but can also slow down the sales cycle if they are set on reviewing several options rather than taking a proven recommendation.”

-- Socius

 

Opening Up to ERP

“We have seen the SMB channel expand on both ends. Entering in has been an influx of startups that have the internal structure of employees that have all used ERP in the past and want to start with a Microsoft Dynamics or NetSuite. Also on the other end, we have seen larger deals as the SMB ERP products continue to develop and add functionality that enable the companies with hundreds and thousands of users come back down from the Enterprise level where many unsuccessful implementations occur.”

--Technology Management Concepts

“As international commerce continues to grow, we are well positioned to help support them with an ERP solution that can handle multiple languages, currencies, channels, and multi-national supply chains.”

-- Sunrise Technologies

“Explaining to prospects how an ERP system is a strategic business investment to help the company better manage processes and grow. Many companies look at it as another software tool but it’s much more than that.”

-- Third Wave Business Systems

“We are also seeing much wider acceptance of cloud based ERP solutions.”

-- Demand Solutions Group

Integration

“Clients need more support and guidance with integrating their ERP package with other line of business or productivity systems.”

-- InterDyn Artis

“We are seeing more and more organizations that are taking a best in class approach vs a suite approach.  This means we have many more customers that want to Salesforce.com with NetSuite rather than just NetSuite alone.”

-- Demand Solutions Group

“Our clients are demanding cloud solutions and they are requiring a higher level of integration with third party products.”

-- DSD Business Systems

“Clients seem to require more integrations to ancillary systems than ever before.  And the need to make modifications to stock applications to meet precise business needs has increased.”

--Crestwood Associates

 

The Rise of the Nonprofits

“Historically, nonprofits averaged five to seven years behind in technology; with their awareness of how the cloud is changing technology, they now have a more forward-looking view and depend on JMT to help them navigate that path forward.”

-- JMT Consulting

“With the promise of increased funding looming, we’re beginning to see organizations looking to reinvest in their software technology and infrastructure.  Part of our clients’ considerations is how to best take advantage of the cloud from both an economic and technology standpoint.  While it seems that the general for profit world has already begun adopting the cloud we’re just now starting to see our market begin to embrace the advantages of cloud based applications.”

-- Capital Business Solutions

“Finance departments at larger churches, particularly those with multiple locations and/or multiple entities, are realizing that they no longer have to settle for financial management and accounting software with limited functionality. Large churches are run more like business enterprises, and their software needs have become more sophisticated. With the availability of tools like Intacct and the partner products in the Intacct Marketplace, church finance departments and executive pastors are seeing that they can take advantage of tools once only available to large companies. This is transforming the way these churches track financial and operational data, automate processes in the back-office, and align their finance department with their mission and vision.”

-- AcctTwo

 

Publisher/Partner Relations

“Publishers need to listen to the channel and energize us.”

-- Martin & Associates

“They have taken some definitive steps this year, from a marketing standpoint, to highlight their channel as a strong point of differentiation and value in the market.  Our other publisher takes a more hands off approach when it comes to the channel.  They have more of an emphasis on protecting their direct channel than working cooperatively with their partners.  Bringing each channel and their unique strengths together in a more symbiotic business structure may create more and better opportunities for both sides.”

-- Capital Business Solutions

“Basically, resellers have to be successful on their own without regard to publisher policies.”

-- SSI Consulting

“The increased ‘quality’ of partners is likely to push partners to a greater role in company’s overall revenue mix.

-- Trajectory

“Current publishers should spend more on their channel partners and less in direct sales.  They are competing with their partners and often don’t do as good a job as their partners servicing their clients.”

-- Business Solution Partners

“We’re certainly on good terms with our current publishers, but I’d say that the relationship has changed over the past few years, from a tight relationship with one or two individuals designated specifically to work with us, to a looser relationship with only occasional touch points. This means that we’re more on our own, which can be a good thing, or not.  How could it be improved? Tighter relationships could work better because having a dedicated individual or individuals who champion our cause and endorse us a valued partner could be highly beneficial. After all, Microsoft and NetSuite have a much broader reach than any individual VAR.”

--Altico Advisors

“We continue to foster and benefit from strong relationships with publishers, especially those with a true partner centric channel commitment.  The industry is evolving quickly and we strive to find more ways to share information that could benefit our clients.  Publishers have more macro industry knowledge and we can provide local industry information as well as specific client challenges.  Bringing together this knowledge to continue to improve on our solutions is an ongoing challenge.  We are always looking for ways to expand communication and speed the process of meeting new requirements for clients.”

-- BAASS Business Solutions

“What we could use more of is sharing the successful strategies and tactics as we move to a cloud-based tech world. We feel that many times, we are recreating the wheel, or even guessing on what may work best, when odds are, someone in the publisher’s world has already been there and done that. Bring us together, so we all benefit from our collective experiences.”

-- Crestwood Associates

“Publishers continue to change their internal organizational models and that presents ongoing problems related to how best to align with them for client success. Better partner advisory boards would help. Furthermore, not all VARs are CPA firms and there are unique challenges for VARs who are CPA firms that the publishers do not always understand.”

-- Wipfli

 

Hosting With the Most

“Since LBMC Technologies’ Network Administration division is certified in Amazon Web Services, we are not only able to sell, implement, and support cloud-based accounting software,  but we are also able to migrate on-premises solutions to the cloud. This enables users to enjoy the benefits of the cloud even with traditionally ‘land-locked’ solutions. Since these services are under one roof, so to speak, we are in the unique position to be a trusted and objective partner with expertise in several different accounting solutions with choices in delivery (cloud or on-premises).”

-- LBMC Technologies

“The deployment method of choice is also changing with more and more companies not wanting to have their servers at their offices. This is addressed with our SaaS product, Intacct, and with hosting options for the other products.”

-- Kianoff & Associates

“CompuData provides cloud hosting to clients that want the cloud experience but may have older ERP systems. This extends the life of their ERP systems by giving new functionality and scalability to those customers. CompuData offers these services to its direct customers and via channel partners.”

--CompuData

“Software providers have been pushing SaaS solutions for a long time, but customers are requesting hosted solutions at a much higher rate in the last 12 months.”

-- InterDyn Artis