ICT VAR’s hardware and software resale practice generates a great deal of information (data) resulting from their use of Manufacturer self-service portals for order management; and their engagement with channel fulfillment through authorized Distribution Partners. Most often, the data coming to the VAR from their “Buy Side” consists of an endless stream of Excel workbooks and emails. This article examines the benefits available to the VAR resulting from automated data integration using modern Cloud Technology. Commerce Cloud Integration from StrataVAR facilitate secure and affordable solutions for data integration; placing them within reach of the 99% of VARs who lack the IT resources to build and maintain complex systems in a cost effective manner or prefer the lower Total Cost of Ownership of Cloud subscription.
When you have unlimited, instant access to your data, and it is located on your secure, scalable and permissions based Cloud Platform, such as Force.com (as used by StrataVAR), the VAR gains independence from their reliance on Web Portals, Excel documents and emails that have been their “go to” sources for everything ranging from answering Customer queries to analyzing their deal profitability and operational efficiency. Accessibility across the VAR organization removes barriers such as user tokens, file access, physical location and reliance on specialized expert’s availability at critical moments. Accessibility can be Customer focused, versus Vendor focused.
2. Data Enrichment
Once you have accessibility, you can immediately begin to enrich your data from multiple sources. If, for example your “Customer Account” includes data from the manufacturer, the distributor and your own professional services organization, the result impacts the user and the organization in profound ways. When process and automated logic are introduced into the system, (examples include: customer quotes, Mfg. back-end rebate calculations, and professional services calculations), the result has a very positive impact on the VAR’s ability to make correct and critical decisions. One specific example is the daily requirement to compare the Disti Quote (BoM + Cost) with the Deal from the manufacturer (such as in a Cisco CCW Deal). Today, for most VARs, these two data sources are simply Excel workbooks emailed to the VAR who then has to “stare and compare” (referring to manual reconciliation of two Excels side by side). When this process is automated, and the resulting data is contained in a structured relational data base, then not only is a great deal of tedious work replace by automation, but at the end of the process all of the analyzed information is stored in the data base, no longer isolated in Excel attachments.
3. Business Intelligence
Correct decision making is often the key to success in an increasingly competitive VAR environment. Excels and Portals do not support the type of data often required to make intelligent decisions; but a properly built relational data base can yield significant insights through effective custom reports and dashboards. Throughout the VAR organization, all departments are hungry for data analysis tools to measure and improve their processes and success rates. These user groups range from pre sales, through sales engineering, architecture, operations, partner management, and financial management. With accurate data you can have limitless BI; and without your own data or by looking at an Excel, you have none.
4. Customer Satisfaction
Your Customer’s Satisfaction is the key to your success as a VAR. How can the VAR satisfy the customer if their internal systems lack sufficient data and have dependencies and resource limits beyond their control? One way to increase Customer Sat is to provide a secure portal from the VAR to provide Customer Self Service from the VAR’s system. This data extensibility reduces the need for a Vendor portal to be available, an Excel to be found or a SME to become involved to answer a simple customer inquiry such as “is this serial number product on a Service Contract? Which one, and when does it expire?” Once your Customer realizes that you have more intelligence about their products and services, including your own Professional Services, and you can respond to their needs more quickly. This level of competence delights and retains important Customers.
5. Improved Profitability
It is a proven fact that properly managed data coupled with strong policy and procedure will increase a VAR’s profitability. Knowing your true profitability at the front end process of each deal, and along each step in the process, requires a significant integration and analysis of multiple sources of data. The best way to operate a profitable business is to build awareness of true profit into the every step of the resale process and streamline the workflow with as much automation as possible. Knowing your transactional discounts, back end rebates and operational costs of professional services delivery are good examples of how control of your own data can make an immediate impact on your profitability.
About StrataVAR: The world leader in Commerce Cloud Integration, delivering cost effective, Cloud based solutions to ICT VAR’s. Contact StrataVAR today and learn how these solutions can transform your various practices, including hardware and software resale, service contract management, professional services, customer quoting and much more.