The Quoting Conundrum: Build vs. Buy for ICT VARs

The 1980s saw significant technological advancements, including the rise of personal computers, the internet, and various software applications. This period marked a turning point for ICT VARs, as technology became increasingly essential for their customers’ operations. With new computing technologies emerging, ICT VARs played a vital role in providing value-added services to businesses seeking technological advantages.

Despite these advancements, ICT VARs were not officially recognized as a distinct industry vertical during this time. This lack of recognition meant that existing quoting solutions and software applications were not tailored to their specific needs. Consequently, ICT VARs are forced to adopt generic off-the-shelf solutions, which often fail to meet their specialized requirements or build a custom solution in-house, which is costly and difficult to maintain.

Challenges with Generic Bought Solutions

One of the primary challenges with bought solutions lies in their agnosticism towards the unique requirements of the ICT market. These solutions often prove cumbersome, requiring labor-intensive processes like “copy-paste” in Excel or manual data entry in web solutions. Moreover, implementing changes across these systems necessitates meticulous file management, contributing to the high total cost of ownership.

While generic solutions may seem like practical options, they often fall short of catering to the specialized needs of VARs. These solutions, designed for broader applications, lack optimization for VAR-specific workflows and constraints, making them suboptimal for efficient quoting processes.

In recent years, recognizing the unique needs of ICT VARs, some quoting solutions have been developed specifically with this industry in mind. While the options may not be abundant, there are now a few solutions available tailored to the requirements of ICT VARs. This development marks a significant shift, providing ICT VARs with viable alternatives to the generic off-the-shelf solutions or the challenging task of building their own. 

With these specialized quoting solutions now accessible, the dilemma between building and buying should not just be about building an in-house solution versus purchasing a generic one. Instead, the focus should be on choosing between building an in-house solution or investing in a quoting solution designed specifically for ICT VARs. This shift in perspective offers ICT VARs a clearer path forward in finding a solution that meets their unique needs while minimizing the challenges associated with the build vs. buy decision.

If your organization is currently navigating the decision between building or buying a quoting solution, here are several things to consider: 

Cost Considerations and Total Ownership 

At first glance, building a solution may appear more cost-effective. However, this approach often considers the initial building process and overlooks the hidden costs of ongoing enhancements and expertise maintenance. Organizations soon discover the soaring development costs, particularly when the need arises to adapt to external forces such as industry changes, or even simple changes made by the VAR’s supplier, requiring continuous investments in expertise and adaptation.

Scalability Challenges

Scalability hinges on the development team’s understanding of the market and the tool’s support requirements. Unlike purpose-built solutions, generic solutions may lack the depth of knowledge necessary to support the ever-evolving VAR quoting needs effectively. Scaling a quoting solution involves predicting future growth and ensuring that the system can accommodate increased sales volumes, expanding product portfolios, and a growing customer base. Without proper foresight and planning, a quoting solution may struggle to keep pace with the evolving needs of the ICT VAR, leading to inefficiencies and bottlenecks in the quoting process.

Integration Challenges

Integration complexities pose significant challenges for ICT VARs, particularly when it comes to seamlessly connecting the quoting solution with other essential systems and data sources. Ensuring compatibility and smooth data exchange between disparate systems remains a critical consideration for ICT VARs when choosing a quoting solution. When building a solution, integrating with existing systems such as CRM, ERP, or supplier databases requires meticulous planning, execution and ongoing maintenance. Any changes to these integrations, without proper maintenance, can disrupt the flow of data and information, leading to errors and inconsistencies in the quoting process. Conversely, off-the-shelf solutions often come with pre-built integrations and APIs as well as ongoing support and maintenance services, simplifying the integration process and reducing the risk of disruptions. 

Maintenance and support

Maintenance and support are crucial for the reliability and functionality of a quoting solution for ICT VARs, ensuring smooth operations and maximizing value. In contrast to bought solutions where maintenance and support are typically provided as a service, built solutions often lack dedicated resources for ongoing maintenance and support. While bought solutions come with clear service level agreements (SLAs) establishing support parameters, prompt updates, expert support services, and proactive monitoring, built solutions often rely on internal resources that may be stretched thin. Without dedicated support teams and proactive monitoring measures, built solutions may struggle to address technical issues promptly, apply timely updates, or ensure system reliability. This discrepancy underscores the importance of considering maintenance and support factors when deciding between building or buying a quoting solution for ICT VARs, as the availability of these services can significantly impact the solution’s long-term effectiveness and sustainability.

Choosing the Right Path: Conclusion on Build vs. Buy for ICT VARs

In conclusion, the decision between building and buying quoting tools for ICT VARs requires a nuanced evaluation of several factors. While building solutions offer customization potential, they come with excessive costs and maintenance overheads. Conversely, buying solutions provides convenience, scalability, and ongoing support, enabling VARs to focus on their core business activities without compromising efficiency and competitiveness. By opting for a commercial solution that is purpose-built to meet the unique needs and challenges of the ICT market, VARs can ensure continuity, accuracy, and efficiency in their quoting processes while realizing significant value in terms of return on investment and cost-effectiveness. With dedicated support, seamless integrations, and proactive maintenance, bought solutions offer a reliable foundation for navigating the dynamic landscape of ICT sales and delivering exceptional value to clients. In a competitive and ever-evolving industry, investing in a tailored quoting solution appears as a strategic imperative for ICT VARs looking to thrive and differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

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