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Annual Report Card: VARs Know The Score

Every year, CRN offers solution providers the opportunity to rate their vendors in a number of criteria, which culminates in our Annual Report Card. So this year, what do the vendors that VARs rate tops in their fields have in common?

In all but four categories, the vendor with the highest Quality score won the overall top score in the product category. For example, Intel's whopping 107 in quality for Processors and Platforms roundly beat competitor AMD's 93.8. Intel won the overall Product category by 9 points. And that score of 107, incidentally, was the highest for any criteria in the entire survey.

/**/ /**/In the three categories that did not see the overall winner take quality kudos--Client Security Software, Enterprise Networking Infrastructure and Volume Mainstream Servers--the overall category winner scored within a few points of the Quality criteria winner. Only in Midrange High-End Servers did the category winner, Dell, score significantly behind the Quality champ, IBM. IBM's 96.7 trumped Dell's 86.7 in Quality, but Dell beat IBM in Partnership, leading to IBM's ultimate defeat in the category.

Every year, the ARC survey offers insight as to how vendors are performing in respective categories as well as by 18 criteria (go to to see detailed report cards of each vendor). All the scores are based on the results of our surveys of solution providers. Every vendor is evaluated by respondents that work specifically with that vendor.

Following are other notable top-line findings to help solution providers find the best vendor for the technology solutions they are implementing today and may need for tomorrow.

1. It's the Economy (Again)

During economic uncertainty--and the past two years have been full of that--itcs not just end customers that are looking to cut costs and increase productivity; it's solution providers too. Vendors that were able to work with partners and provide high-quality products at good prices were rewarded with high scores. As ViewSonic's Jeff Volpe, vice president and general manager of ViewSonic Americas, noted, during a downturn VARs are looking for a trusted source that will truly step up to the moniker of "partner." ViewSonic, which returns to the top spot in Displays after an eight-year hiatus, has introduced a number of new products and has offered VARs the opportunity to take advantage of more aggressive display pricing. Anticipating VARs' demands in terms of pricing and products are hallmarks of No. 1 players. How did ViewSonic climb back to the top? See our story on p. 24.

2. Support

Intel, EMC, Fortinet, Juniper, Cisco: Each of these top-ranked vendors also had top scores in the ARC Support subcategory. When times are tough, solution providers look to their trusted partners for support to help them win deals. For many VARs, the recession made them acutely aware of their customers' needs.

/**/ /**/"We had to be more aware of their business needs vs. their wants," said Rick Chernick, CEO of Camera Corner/Connecting Point, Green Bay, Wis. "We decided to get aggressive in sales vs. hunker down with cost-cutting. You can only cut so much."

VARs looked to vendor partners to help with presales and postsales support, marketing support and training. "We spent money on training our people, changed the commission program to award those selling in tough times, did more seminars and had the largest technology show ever in our history. We took advantage of our top vendor programs and wisely chose partner programs like HP PartnerOne Elite and used registration to win deals," Chernick said.

3. Needs Work: Marketing Support, Training, Ease of Doing Business

According to the numbers, Marketing Support is most in need of improvement. The lowest score in the entire report card--a 35.6--went to Oracle for its performance in this criterion within the Volume Mainstream Business Servers ($24,999 and below) category. The second and third lowest scores, 37.4 (Sun/Oracle, Enterprise Network Storage) and 39.4 (Sun/Oracle, Midrange, High-End Servers), were also due to poor marketing support. The average score for this criterion was 60.2, with 45 percent of all the Marketing Support scores below that mark. The highest score was EMC's 77.8 in the Data Protection Software category.

/**/ /**/Vendors also struggled with Ease of Doing Business. The lowest scores were a 40.1 (Sun/Oracle, again in Enterprise Network Storage) followed by a 41.3 (Sun/Oracle, once more in Midrange, High-End Servers). However, the average score for the criterion was significantly higher than for Marketing Support, coming in at 71.6. Fortinet earned the highest score for Ease of Doing Business (Network Security Appliances).

Finally, VARs reported training needs improvement.Lenovo (Notebooks) got the lowest score of 41.5 with second place going to Dell (Notebooks). The average score for the criterion was 62.5; the highest score was EMC's 81.7 (Data Protection Software).

This year, IBM earned a 52.1 in the Partner Portal criteria, still less than the average of 60.2. Still, the top score for the criterion was only 74.8, earned by Fortinet in Network Security Appliances, suggesting more work is needed in this area.

Scott Campbell contributed to this story.

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