Page 1 of 2
The ARC methodology, because of its scope and depth, leaves vendors no room to hide when solution providers grade them on product innovation, support and partnership criteria. Within each of those broad subcategories, solution providers gave separate grades for a total of 18 criteria, ranging from product quality and reliability, postsales support and ease of doing business, among others.
Solution providers are also asked to rate the importance of each of the 18 criteria, which are then given a weighted number based on solution provider responses. Then the votes are tallied much like an Olympic diving event to determine the final score for each subcategory, which is then tabulated to determine the ARC winners.
Sound complicated? Not really. Vendors hoping to win an ARC trophy simply need great products coupled with solid channel support programs to come out on top.
While VARs rated product quality and reliability as the most import criteria in evaluating vendors, followed closely by revenue and profit potential, ease of doing business and postsales support ranked as the third and fourth most important qualities solution providers look for in their vendor partners.
"When we evaluate a vendor, we look first at the quality of the technology," said Chris Ferry, executive vice president of Technology Integration Group, a San Diego-based solution provider. "You have to have a product that the customer is going to be happy with."
While Ferry's views are shared by most VARs, having the complete package of product quality, sales support and channel program are what help push ARC winners to the top.
Alex Allidina, director of sales and marketing at Data Agility Group, a Carrollton, Texas-based storage solution provider, agrees that technology is paramount when evaluating a vendor partner, but channel programs and support are important as well. "Channel programs are secondary; technology and what they offer, what we think we can sell, what people are looking for--that is what comes first."
But he said that smart companies can leverage their channel programs and incentives to attract the interest of solution provider partners. "Channel programs and incentives can lure us in, but the technology must be worth it or the channel program is useless," Allidina said, noting that his company's primary vendor partners are Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash., VMware Corp., Palo Alto, Calif. and FalconStor Software Inc., Melville, N.Y.
Some of the best in the ARC did, in fact, leverage their channel programs to come out on top. After an absence of several years from the ARC stage, Toshiba Corp., Tokyo, made a comeback with its Satellite lineup of notebooks and snared the ARC Company of the Year award for Notebooks and Mobile Computers. Toshiba pulled off the win over rivals Dell Inc., Round Rock, Texas, Hewlett-Packard Co., Palo Alto, Calif. and Lenovo, Morrisville, N.C., on the strength of its support and partnership scores. While it ranked third in the product innovation ratings, Toshiba won the support and partnership subcategories to make it the overall winner in Notebooks.