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The VAR’s Dilemma: How to migrate sales and operations from a file based process to a record based architecture

One of great ironies of this time period in the Networking and Data Center Channel is that while ICT VAR’s are racing to capitalize on their customer’s migration of data, applications and business intelligence to the Cloud, many of their own operational processes rely primarily on decade’s old technology.

If you are a VAR, consider for a minute the fundamental advantages of driving your business processes with a records and transactions based system versus the file based system you use today. What advantages come to mind first? Data accessibility, security, auditability, scalability are surely top of mind. But what if you dig a little deeper into the problem, what can we see here as the number one reason to stop what you are doing for a minute and look at applying your own expertise to your own business?

To me, the answer is simple: Profitability.
And I can prove it.

Before we go too much further, let’s separate fact from fiction. Your SaaS CRM subscription, such as Salesforce.com, which features a relational data base at its core with broad analytics built into the platform is a great step in the right direction; but not proof that your business is running on a record based architecture. In fact, I often visit with the top Cisco Partners in the world, and you know what I see most of the time? A whole lot of Excel copy/paste. There is no better example of a file based system than that. As soon as the VAR begins to show me their Excel templates, their copy/paste and export/import processes I know for a fact that they have not succeeded in migrating to a record based architecture in a relational database.

Here is a common example: the VAR is a Cisco Reseller Partner and logs onto Cisco Commerce Workspace (CCW) to complete a design and BoM for a customer. Great, now Cisco has validated the customer design and, depending on your level of partnership, you may see your net transactional cost or at least your expected net price based on standard discounts negotiated as part of your program. The data is right there on your screen; now how do you get that data into your business? Excel export/import! Even more troubling is that your Cisco Distribution Partner is now ready to send you a quote to buy the solution at their calculated net price, based on the electronically routed ConfigSet/BoM from CCW, and how do they send this data to you? By Excel. Now you have two excel files, one from Cisco and one from Disti, let the copy/paste begin. Sound familiar?

One more thought here to really drive home the issues with this process: every time anything changes during the lifecycle of the deal, which is often the case, you not only have to copy/paste again but you lose version control and introduce a myriad of new possibilities for errors to propagate. It’s no wonder that your CRM opportunities have no real data in them, because no one wants to place the final BoM and cost in the system until after the deal is closed. It is simply too much manual effort to keep up with.

Now let’s revisit profitability for a second. How much time are your employees (and you) spending to copy and paste all of this data into any system of record such as your CRM, Quoting tool or homegrown cost analysis (which is probably also Excel)? And as the data changes every time your customer changes the requirements, you have to update with CCW, get another Disti Quote and so forth, which means your employees are spending even more time running in circles. You are throwing money (profit) away through payroll, and the errors that are introduced into the system can cost you thousands or tens of thousands of dollars; or even cause you to lose the deal entirely.

Worse still is that you still don’t know for sure the margin you will earn on the transaction, including the Cisco rebates and the internal costs to implement the solution. You are guessing, and hoping that you guess correctly most of the time. Now you may say that you don’t guess, that you really work hard to pour through each version of each Excel to ensure that Disti got the order right, and that your SE team was collaborating with your sales team on the right solution and the customer signed the quote.

You are OK, right? Wrong!

You are in more serious trouble now than before you started because now you have scaled a file based system beyond its boundaries, and your critical financial data is scattered far and wide. You may find yourself dependent on the contents of someone’s hard drive yet unable to find that person or the PC assigned to them. Where did all of that data go? How could you ever recreate it for an audit? You relied on eyeballs for data integrity and people make mistakes.

Now imagine for a moment a system where a single click will automatically import the data from CCW into your database, where all data is organized in related fields and records. No more Excel copy/paste, just a single click to place all of your data where it is accessible to everyone in your organization who needs to view it or contribute to its optimization. Imagine further that another click will download all of the Disti Quote data and then use computerized logic to instantly highlight the reconciliation issues that need to be addressed. You may archive the Excel source of that data for audit and control, but never really need to look at the Excel file itself.

Where is this imaginary world of single click data integration? For many years it has been in the hands of the very large Cisco Partners, who have very large IT budgets and lots of cooperation from Cisco. That is probably why they are a real threat to your business, because their IT efficiency makes them more nimble, more able to negotiate profitably and more responsive to the customer because their data is literally at their fingertips. Too bad that you are not in this league of VAR’s, but what can you do?

Finally there is a solution and it is called StrataVAR. Cloud based, subscription service software that seamlessly integrates all of your data from the Cisco Commerce Cloud to your system of record and platform. Now the cloud is working for you.

Here in 2015, the technology landscape has experienced a complete paradigm shift to Cloud-based solutions and StrataVAR was created to take a fresh approach to the profitability challenges facing Cisco Partners and ICT VARs in general. Returning your data back to you, after completing a process on CCW is now just a single click away. This is not a CCW feature, but a StrataVAR solution to a pervasive problem facing every Cisco reseller except maybe those top 5 or 10 with the big IT departments. Even there, by the way, their cost to build and maintain their own solution is a huge burden on their profitability too.

Let’s conclude on the subject of profitability. If it were possible for you to eliminate all of the manual effort spent on copy/paste processes, what effect would that have on your bottom line? If errors were eliminated at the same time, how much money would you save based on your past experience? If Disti Quotes were automatically “married” to CCW Quotes, and red flags pointed you to the specific items of interest, how much time would be save and how many errors in disti fulfillment would be cured? If your annual VIP rebate increased by 5%, what would that mean to your overall profitability? If all of your Cisco Services data, such as SMARTnet contracts where to exist in your own database and accessible to anyone in your organization with authorization, or even extended out to your customers via a secure portal, how would that increase your profitability and customer satisfaction?

Imagine having an accurate and up to date sales forecast pipeline, including profit margin forecast. Imagine a rich data base supported with intuitive reporting and dashboard graphics that displays your business at any given moment in time: past, present and future. Imagine employees that are not buried under the weight of repetitive, boring and useless data copy and paste and spending their valuable time improving your customer’s experience and focusing on the real issues. Imagine the smart decisions you could make based on accurate information and the reduction of stress related to guesswork and late night excel manipulation.

Imagine proposing a modern, cloud based solution to your own business problems. Call StrataVAR to learn how easy and affordable a migration to a record based architecture can be.


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