[IMGCAP(1)]At long last the 2013 Accounting Today VAR 100 list is out and I’d like to give some viewpoints on what we’ve learned about how they got there, what makes a top accounting/ERP channel partner these days and do we really still need the term VAR?

Just a bit of background for anyone who is unfamiliar with the list: For the past decade we have been producing this annual ranking of accounting and ERP resellers –- first started by Accounting Technology magazine and ultimately Accounting Today. The goal really was, and still is, to showcase the top performers in this specific field which has changed significantly in the time we’ve been publishing it.

Those of you who are in the profession day in and out know what I’m talking about, especially those of you on the list, as it’s been your life for easily the past decade and, for most of you, 20-plus years or more. In fact, if any of you reading this still think the profession hasn’t changed that much over the past decade, take a look at our first report.

To be fair, a rankings list doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story, but it does give a nice introduction to a conversation -– one I’d like to start, or continue.

The biggest way I’ve seen being an accounting/ERP VAR change is in how you all have had to deal with publishers. Many of you claim reductions in margins and that the business is not just about selling licenses any more or even the same products you’ve carried for 20-odd years. This is why we’ve titled the latest report Filling the Toolbox as a nod to the increasing amount of products and -- more importantly -- services that VARs are offering.

It should also be noted that in a very short amount of time, the most popular addition from a product perspective has been cloud-based products. Regardless of what your viewpoint on what the cloud or a cloud product actually is, these vendors believe they have it and a growing number of VARs want it.

Specifically, as recently as 2010 only five of the resellers ranked in the VAR 100 carried cloud accounting/ERP products, while the 2013 list had 42 with more on the way as several only signed on in the past several months and chose not to list them.

So what does this mean? Is it that VARs are simply tired of waiting for the publishers they’ve been with for a couple of decades or more to come out with a true cloud offering? Is enough of their client base asking for these products now or do they just want to be ready for the future?

I think the answer is all of the above, and then some. It’s not that having a cloud product is the answer, but it’s an option and these days –- and going forward -– that’s what reseller partners need.

Even the “traditional” publishers in this space are almost universally saying that they want to provide their customers with more choice, and as such, so are the VARs.

The channel/publisher relationship is still viable and important, that much has not changed, but there is a general consensus among the VAR 100 that they have to start doing more on their own -- in marketing, in product representation, and in service.

One thing I didn’t really note in my initial write up that I’d like to point out was that most of the VAR 100 that did add more products or services saw higher revenue increases than those who were still seeing some residual economic difficulties or did not add anything. In fact, there were a handful that saw a bit of a revenue dip from a year ago -- none of them added to their product or service offerings. Just saying.

Now, to the topic of the VAR moniker. This is something that’s been on my mind lately and since we do a monthly Q&A I thought I would ask reseller veteran Terry Petrzelka about how much longer he thought the term VAR -- as it relates to accounting and ERP partners -- would last and what, instead, should replace it? I think he kind of nailed it.

In his view, it was a term he “always hated.”  He went on to say that “the channel partner of the future for those that make the transition to the new norm will be known as a ‘solution provider’ or a ‘solutions partner,’ where the partner brings the technology skills, expertise, and methods and couples this with the industry knowledge, experience and acumen to truly become a client’s ‘trusted advisor’ as a ‘solution provider’ or ‘solutions partner.’”

Anecdotally I’ve spoken to many resellers in this space and I’ve also brought up the idea as well and it seems many of you don’t even consider yourselves VARs any longer, but more service providers, consultants, trusted advisors and the like.

Perhaps there should be a contest or informal wager on what the new term should be?

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