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Do we still need VARS?

I was just answering a question on this board about Traverse Accounting. It is down about 13 posts from this one.

In that post, I give out a few ideas on how to generate more business, and how to increase billing hours. While I talk about the accounting package Traverse, I do also talk about the benefits of packageing other’s peoples software with your own. (you might want to read that post before you come back and finish here).

One of the suggestions I gave was to become a VAR (Value added Reseller). I have dealt with a good many VARS over the years, but have not actually considered becoming a VAR (gee, missed opportunities here!!). (I do a lot of consulting work for vars in my town..but am NOT one!).

I am also considering using VARS for my own products. The use of a VAR can make sense when you need support people for your product in a given City/area. (you don’t have to pay them either!..but you loose out on consulting fees). They sell and integrate your product. They do all the hassle work. Of course this generates business for them, and thus it is usually a happy marriage.

SCO unix, Pick systems are two very good examples that built very successful VAR networks over the years.

A good many hardware computer vendors also built up their companies this way).

With the advent of remote support, and standard desktop OS’s like windows, do any of you still think that the VAR business model works well for software today? Do we still need to be a physical person i the City we are selling the product?

Any of you still consider using VARS? Either becoming one, or using VARS to sell your products?

Am I talking about buggy whips here?


Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
Kallal@msn.com

Albert D. Kallal
Friday, February 07, 2003

I think the answer to your question depends upon your market, and the value that the reseller is adding. As a customer, I don't see the value a VAR can add to products aimed at a technologically savy audience (For whom remote support technologies are well suited), however small and medium-sized businesses with weak internal IT departments can benefit from the training and implementation support offered by a good, service-oriented VAR. As a developer, I see the benefit of partnering with a VAR if that VAR can bring my product to the attention of local businesses and offer them the kind of hands-on support I mentioned above. To be more specific: Fog Creek wouldn’t benefit from a VAR relationship because the typical Fog Bugz customer probably won’t need too much hand holding, while City Desk is straight-forward enough that anyone should be able to pick it up. Even if a network of VARs offered Joel greater marketing support, their cut of the profits wouldn’t justify their existence. On the other hand, a local CRM vendor uses an extensive network of VARs to provide training, implementation support, and even hardware that the developer simply couldn’t afford to offer. So the short form of my $0.02 is: A VAR is a viable option if it adds VALUE and doesn’t just RESELL.

Geoff in Vancouver BC
Friday, February 07, 2003

Actually many CityDesk sales come through VARs; there is a growing network of web builders who create sites for their customers using CityDesk and then hand the site over to the customers to maintain themselves.

Most small businesses and organizations don't have the skills to design and build their own web sites; they hire web designers to create the site.  And these designers can get a serious competitive advantage if they give their customers a site that can be easily updated with CityDesk instead of requiring the designer to make every change.

Joel Spolsky
Friday, February 07, 2003

My reason for considering using VARS is if I integrate a accounting package into my travel software.

The reason for this is that the accounting software will take some training and set up.  That training and setup can’t easily be done remotely right now. However, I am looking into ways to address this (ie: Video-Professor/screen capture type learning materials).

Thus, software that takes some on site work presents a challenge for me to sell outside of a geoparphiasl area.

I can either improve or create learning materials, or consider using VARS to do this for me.

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
Kallal@msn.com

Albert D. Kallal
Saturday, February 08, 2003

Joel,

You say that many sites are created by VARs: are these people with some form of contract with you, or indie designers that chose to recommend your product because it is the best in its class?

Geoff in Vancouver BC
Saturday, February 08, 2003

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