ED considers reseller alliance

Express Data has revealed it is considering the viability of forming a strategic alliance with its top resellers, mirroring the VentureTech alliance built by US competitor Ingram Micro.

Ross Cochrane, ED's general manager, told ARN he believes the idea of forming an affiliate VentureTech-style group has "potential", but warned the idea is still very much in its formative stages with no timeframe planned for its implementation.

"It's at the stage of discussion right now and we need to ensure whatever we go to the market with is well researched and will get the appropriate level of response," he said in an interview with ARN.

The concept employed by Ingram Micro US has seen over 500 solutions integrators become members of the VentureTech Network to focus on providing the SMB market with products, IT consulting and value-added services.

The VentureTech Network is sponsored by a number of vendors including Cisco Systems, Compaq, IBM and Microsoft as part of each company's desire to reach the SMB market.

According to Cochrane, the concept allows resellers to forge tighter working relationships and counter the threat of direct vendors.

"I've looked at how the channel has evolved and I don't think we have taken advantage enough of the technologies available to us," he said.

"One of the real opportunities is to get together and talk. It's getting to the time when you are going to have to make some hard decisions about who you are partnering with, what are the reasons you are partnering with them and how you get something out of it. It doesn't work unless there's commitment from both sides."

The risk Express Data faces from the plan is the possible perception that resellers would become exclusive to the distributor.

Cochrane denied ED would follow that path: "I don't think exclusivity works. It's bad for channel business."

He said resellers have reacted positively to the idea in informal discussions. "They love it. They are going to a more focussed approach to business themselves," he said.

Meanwhile, ED is currently doing its best to assure the channel it can maintain stock levels after a recent report concerning short supply of standards-based, branded Intel servers.

When asked to explain ED's inventory policy, Cochrane explained: "Firstly, we don't have a policy to minimise inventory holdings. We would love to hold more inventory, and the sole reason for that is when there is more inventory in place and our fill rates are very high there is no debate."

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