Las Vegas (June 25, 2003) – The greatest challenge facing mid-market accounting software vendors today is not the economy but growing and nurturing their sales channels -- particularly CPA firms.

This was one of the key messages from a panel of nearly a dozen worldwide executives here at the American Institute of CPAs’ Information Technology Conference.
Having a better understanding of client needs and dealing with “one of the worst economic environments this market has ever seen,” as Taylor Macdonald, senior vice president of business partners at Best Software, put it, were of concern to all on the panel. But it was apparent that everyone felt the need to do a better job of increasing and maintaining their partner channels.

Panelists were also in accord that they could increase the number of CPA firms in their channel, as “recommenders” and full-service resellers and implementers. A poll of all the companies represented found that between 15 and 25 percent of their channels were comprised of CPA firms of all sizes.

Executives also felt that their channel partners’ greatest stumbling block was in their marketing – or lack of it.

 “If you don’t market, you are dead, plain and simple,” said Michael Bertini, chief executive of Minneapolis-based Open Systems Inc. “Resellers tend to spend too much time implementing and not marketing. Leverage the publisher for their expertise, but no matter what your size you need to set aside a percentage of your budget.”

Bonnie Robertson, director of strategic partner relations at Microsoft Business Solutions, reiterated Bertini’s point: “if you just resell and implement you are not going to make it. We will help educate where we need to and help them commit to a focus, which is what some really need to do more than anything.”

Nearly all panelists felt that their greatest asset was their ability to integrate in real-time, but some admitted that these are only buzz words if no one understands their meaning.

As Zach Nelson, chief executive of Web-based business and accounting software company NetLedger Inc., pointed out, “Integration has different meanings to everyone and some don’t do it as well as they say. What you really need to be asking is how data is managed, how many databases am I dealing with, and how well you are able to access it.”

-Seth Fineberg

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