Channel Marker


November 2, 2007  5:13 PM

Who are the real tech buyers/decision makers?

Heather Clancy Heather Clancy Profile: Heather Clancy

Want to sell some a unified communications solution, skip the tech guys and start with the sales department.

Yes, yes, the idea that business executives will wield a larger decision over technology purchases has been kicking around the channel for several years now. But Mike Thompson, president and CEO of VAR Groupware Technology in Campbell, Calif., says the most relevant sales conversations are starting to happen outside of the IT organization. This is especially true for complex solutions such as unified communications, he says, because the easiest way to justify the investment cost is to talk to those who own or manage operational and facilities costs that fall outside the IT organization.

Of course, this means a different sort of marketing message, Thompson says. He’s investing in a multi-tiered one for unified communications that leans less on the tech specs of the Cisco equipment he sells and more on the tangible business benefits. One of the biggest head turners, he says, is the simple efficiency argument—especially when it comes to linking together organizations with several remote locations that want to look more professional.

Business journalist and channel communications consultant Heather Clancy welcomes your comments, ideas and gripes. E-mail her at hccollins@mac.com.

October 31, 2007  2:02 AM

NetSuite puts Ellison’s shares in ‘lock box’

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

At last, someone at NetSuite (or maybe Oracle) has figured out that Larry Ellison’s stake in NetSuite is the conflict-of-interests outsiders have been flagging for years.

According to recent NetSuite filings, Oracle CEO Ellison will put his NetSuite shares into a “lock box” to be managed by a third party.

 The whole Oracle-NetLedger-NetSuite dance has been complex from the get-go.

Ellison funded the startup, then called NetLedger in 1998. Oracle at that time was primarily a database player and concentrated on large enterprise accounts. NetSuite’s fledgling online financial software consisted of applications for smaller companies.

Oracle itself then re-sold the resulting NetLedger product/service into SMB accounts. However, as Oracle launched a serious SMB attack on its own and spent billion-upon-billion (upon billion) to buy more applications, it was quickly apparent –at least to most of the sentient world–that Oracle’s own products were competing with NetLedger (by now NetSuite).

It was not unlike the “frenemy” situation between Oracle and Salesforce.com, the pioneering CRM SaaS player. Salesforce.com’s CEO Marc Benioff was a former Oracle exec and Larry protégé. Ditto NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson. Ditto, for that matter, NetSuite tech guru Evan Goldberg. Goldberg and Ellison co-founded Net Ledger in 1998.

Given Oracle’s apps hunger, there was lurking suspicion that Oracle may end up buying a Larry Ellison company. Yet another complication, especially as NetSuite keeps trying to go public. Several NetSuite partners (who also happen to be Oracle partners) have been wondering about this ownership situation for some time. Most shrugged it off as one of those Larry-being-Larry things.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston area freelancer, can be reached at badarrow@comcast.net.


October 30, 2007  6:43 AM

Time to recalibrate your thinking about printing and imaging

Heather Clancy Heather Clancy Profile: Heather Clancy

Been prepping this week for a presentation I’m giving on behalf of my colleagues at channel consulting firm SWOT Management Group to Oki Data‘s solution provider advisory council (full disclosure on where my head is right now). So thinking quite a bit about printing and imaging. I know: Probably not your usual fare here at SearchITChannel.com.

In my days as a reporter, printers were, quite frankly, a bit overlooked as a coverage area. That is, until marvelous inventions like Adobe PostScript promised to pull these peripherals squarely onto the network and into the workgroup realm. The latest wave of innovation began when features from the office equipment world began to creep over—management software, scanner support and the like. In reality, if you sit back and mull the technology over a bit, today’s printing and imaging segment is one of those practice areas that could be a very logical, practical extension to your existing infrastructure practices in storage, security and collaboration.

Let me explain.

First, some market statistics. Gartner reported fairly recently that U.S. shipments of printers and copiers declined 4 percent in the second quarter. That is, printer sales declined 15 percent, but purchases of flatbed multifunction peripherals (MFPs) grew 19 percent compared with the second quarter of 2006. The color-enabled portion of this market is growing at a rate of 29 percent year over year, according to another market researcher, IDC. A related area, document scanners, is also posting respectable growth. Here’s some thoughts from market research company InfoTrends on the role of scanners. The transition to digital fax machines, of course, started happening years ago.

In my opinion, there are several dynamics driving this growth: new forms of business collaboration, as illustrated by software platforms such as Microsoft SharePoint; compliance regulations that dictate better document management policies and strategies; and the rise of Web 2.0-related portals that have made the job of managing content in both electronic and printed forms a whole lot more onerous. Of course, price points for MFPs have simply made the investment in these devices more worth it.

So how does this relate to something like storage? Think of printing and imaging as the front-end to the document management and workflow applications that have been slowly finding their way into business continuity and back-up solutions. You could even tie together a start-to-finish managed service: one that starts with an MPF, links into the appropriate software and archives accordingly, as business conditions dictate.

Similarly, protecting these documents with some sort of digital signature or encryption methodology could be a concern of your data security practice.

The fact that there are really no “standard” ways of handling documents, that every company’s workflow and retention strategy is probably slightly different, that this entire process really could benefit from ongoing management and services . These things make a printing and imaging solution look a lot more like an infrastructure practice than a commodity PC sale. Have you been thinking about it that way?


October 29, 2007  3:36 PM

Biztalk Next or ‘Oslo’ details coming soon

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

Microsoft is getting ready to talk about BizTalk Server Next.

The product-to-be, code-named Oslo, won’t be out any time soon-sources said to look at 2009 or 2010.  The current iteration , BizTalk Server 2007 R2, which added EDI and RFID support, just shipped. 

BizTalk is Microsoft’s take on Enterprise Application Integration,. And, it is being positioned as a key component–along with SQL Server and Visual Studio–of the company’s overall application development platform. Visual Studio 2008 is due perhaps late this year but more likely early next. , SQL Server 2008  has been promised for delivery in the second quarter of CY 2008.

Microsoft’s BizTalk group has already parsed out  some component services and offered them as such. But the company has also said these services will not supplant the  BizTalk server SKU itself. 

Barbara Darrow, a Boston area freelancer, can be reached at badarrow@comcast.net.


October 29, 2007  9:33 AM

Big personnel change in biz-apps world

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

It’s been an active autumn among top-level business applications execs.

First, in a shake-up, Sage Software nuked a big part of its Americas leadership. Ron Verni and channel-and-strategy chief   Taylor MacDonald were gone as first reported  here.

And, also in mid-month, Oracle’s John Wookey, widely praised for his work integrating the PeopleSoft and Siebel goods into an overall Oralce portfolio took his leave as reported on this  blog and picked up by this one.

One shoe still to drop: where will   Tami Reller, who helped lead Microsoft Business Solutions chief end up? There is some speculation she could move to head one of Microsoft’s subsidiaries. Kiril Tatarinov now heads MBS

 Barbara Darrow, a Boston area freelancer, can be reached at badarrow@comcast.net.


October 24, 2007  7:05 AM

New MBS support plan could allay ‘Project Green’ worries

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

Microsoft hopes to ease concerns about its ERP migration plans by extending minimum support on all four product lines for another five years.

“The longer support pledge should put any worries about Microsoft’s ERP roadmap to rest, says Barb Edson, senior director of Microsoft Dynamics marketing.

Net, net, net, this means that the four ERP lines, which Microsoft had already promised to support till 2013, will be supported for an additional five years. “By saying we’re committed to all four products, across all four lines, the message is ‘pick whichever is the best fit and we’ll keep investing in it,” Edson said.

Five years ago, Microsoft’s stated its “Project Green” plan to converge its four ERP code bases into one. But continuing confusion around the strategy caused many customers to hold off on upgrading the products they already had. And partners didn’t like that one darn bit.

It didn’t help when rumors cropped up a that Axapta (aka Microsoft Dynamics AX) was going to be the de facto converged code base. “That killed Great Plains sales,” said on long time Great Plains (Dynamics GP) partner.

So, Microsoft is using its Convergence conference in Copenhagen to reassure all constituencies that Solomon, Great Plains, Axapta and Navision will continue to be updated and supported into the foreseeable future.

There have been glitches for the Microsoft Business Division’s biz apps push. For one thing, the company’s rebranding of the products isn’t hugely popular. (Ask any Great Plains or Axapta or Navision or Solomon partner if they prefer Dynamics GP or AX or NAV or SL, and you’ll see what I mean). And while Mcirosft pledges “love” to all four ERP lines, it offloaded Solomon development to a third party. That hasn’t kept Solomon, make that Dynamics SL partners, very warm and fuzzy.

And there is some concern among MBS partners about how high a priority ERP and CRM in Microsoft’s own world view as the company seems obsessed with Google and its search domination, for example.

Meanwhile, SAP keeps investing in Business One for the mid market, and Intuit, which has repeatedly staved off Microsoft in so-ho accounting is coming up market with Quickbooks Enterprise. It even unveiled its own SMB partner program last week and has lured several Microsoft ERP partners to participate. One said Intuits pricing gives the VAR entry into accounts that cannot afford the typically $10,000 to $15,000 entry price for a Microsoft solution.

But back to Convergence. At the show Microsoft will pledge to give partners and customers advanced notice of roadmap changes and tweaks 12 to 18 months in advance.

And it will extend its solution financing option-which lets partners finance hardware, software and services at low rates-into European markets.

Total Solution Financing, already available in the U.S., lets partner parse out customer payments into affordable monthy chunks at low interest rates. Leasing terms range fom 12 to 60 months. Monthly payments can be as low as 50 euros a month.

Last month, Microsoft brought business apps support into the overall fold.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston area freelancer, can be reached at badarrow@comcast.net.


October 23, 2007  7:26 AM

Microsoft cuts ‘Titan’ CRM prices to hosting partners

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

In its quest to entrench  Microsoft CRM as a popular hosted alternative to Salesforce.com, Microsoft today cut the subscription fees for hosting partners by 40 percent,

These partners will now pay $15 per customer per month vs.$25 per user per month. Partners must also run Windows Server 2000 or later and SQL Server 2003 or later.

That price allows partners to build in their own margin and still be able to offer the service at a competitive price, said  Bryan Nielson director worldwide product marketing for dynamics CRM. Salesforce.com, the pioneer in CRM-as-a-service retails starting at $600 per year for five users, but most editions cost considerably more–listing for at least $65 per user per month.

The news was delivered at the company’s Convergence show in Copenhagen by Microsoft Business Division president Jeff Raikes. 

The company says its  new “Titan” hosted CRM version remains on track for end-of-year availability and the first release of the  service will ship with support for English, Dutch, german, French and Spanish right out of the chute with other languages available over the next few months. They will be distributed in free downloadable “language packs” every few weeks. Support for the major currencies will be available immediately, with others to follow in the same model.

Titan, which will likely be known as Microsoft CRM 4.0, will feature one code set available in on-premises and hosted versions. The big news with this release is that, for the first time, Microsoft itself will host it for customers who want to go that route.

Partners who bring customers into the Titan fold, with Microsoft playing the host, will receive 10 percent of revenue from that account every year the customer remains on the service and the partner is in good standing, Nielson said.

The company also added several hosting partners to its roster:  Mondo A/S out of Denmark, Jaythom Pty Ltd., of Australia,  EveryWare AG of Switzerland and Increase Ltd. of the UK.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston area freelancer, can be reached at badarrow@comcast.net.


October 22, 2007  8:48 AM

Intuit officially launches channel program for mid-market

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

Intuit says its newly launched solution provider program for mid-market companies will make QuickBooks for Enterprise a viable alternative to Sage Software and Microsoft ERP products.

The company, long a leader in accounting software for consumers and very small businesses, says there is a huge audience of larger companies–those with 20 to 500 employees–that is not addressed by those pricier wares.

The just-shipping  QuickBooks Enterprise version 8.0 weighs in at $3,000 for five concurrent seats and ranges up to $9,000 for 20 seats. The latter price is a hike from $7,500 for the previous version.

To better penetrate this market Intuit recruited new VARs, many of whom are also in the Sage and Microsoft camps, and signed up 75 solution providers. These partners consist of many who are new to Intuit as well as some current Intuit Pro Advisor partners to help design this channel program, says Jim Gregg, channel director of Intuit’s Mid-Market Group.

The company did its homework where the rubber hits the road:  Partner compensation. Base margin on a software sale is 25 percent, but partners can garner another 20 percent based on other factors. Gregg said, overall, if the partner does well in both sales and service components, he or she can get to 60 percent margin.

If a sale initiated by a partner ends up going direct, the partner will still get 15 points of margin. Partners can get up to an additional 6 percent based on customer satisfaction as measured by the company’s quarterly Net Promoter” research.

The company will also assess points of margin-2 percent-for partners who actively participate in its online “Live Community” support forum. Another 5 percent of margin can be had for bringing in a customer from a competitive offering or converting a current, but unsupported, Intuit customer.

Still another 20 percent is to be had each month by referring customers to QuickBooks Merchant Services, the QuickBase database, and vInventory on-Demand Inventory Management. That bonus will be paid as long as the partner remains a member in good standing of the Intuit program.

Intuit, Mountain View, Calif., is looking for partners to join some of its existing Pro Advisor network members, for this program. The goal is to sign up 250 members in the U.S. this year. The overall goal is 750 partners, Gregg said.

Qualifying partners must pay an initiation fee of $1,000; annual membership is $1,500.

Lori Nicks, president of Accounting Technology Systems of Tucson, is aboard.

A long-time Solomon (now Microsoft Dynamics SL) partner, Nicks says Intuit’s price point will get her into smaller accounts more easily.  “With SL, you’re looking at $10,000 to $15,000 to get in,” which is too rich for many small accounts, Nicks says.

Nicks was part of Intuit’s pilot program and says she’s getting quite a few referrals from the vendor and ha picked up several consulting clients who initially bought through Intuit. She says her company will continue to offer Solomon as well as QuickBooks Enterprise.

By way of background, Intuit is one of the few software companies that has managed to beat back incursions by Microsoft into its key turf  multiple times. Microsoft’s latest foray, Small Business Accounting, has apparently also failed to convince many users to leave Quicken.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston area freelancer, can be reached at badarrow@comcast.net.


October 16, 2007  4:20 PM

Microsoft pushes next Navision release out a year

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

The next version of Microsoft Navision ERP (aka Dynamics NAV) has been delayed a full year, the company confirmed today.

What was to have been NAV 5.1, due late this year, has morphed into NAV 6, with a slated release date of the fourth quarter 2008. That’s calendar year quarter,

A Microsoft spokeswoman confirmed the changes, first reported in a German trade publication IS Report  and in this blog last week.

Details were sparse but the spokeswoman said there will be an interim Service Pack for Nav 5.1, early next year.

Here’s part of the statement from Mogens Elsberg, Dynamics NAV general manager:

“The development effort behind the delivery of Microsoft Dynamics NAV 6.0 is significant. While bringing valuable usability and productivity gains to customer, the development work requires real architectural change. Given the strong Microsoft Dynamics NAV ISV ecosystem, we have engaged ISVs early in the development of the product. Together we have concluded that we can bring important improvement to the product by extending the release date.

By continuing our work we can improve the performance, overall quality an perhaps most importantly, maintain the ‘simplicity’ of Microsoft Dynamics NAV.”

Hmmmm. 

What remains to be seen is whether this decision has anything to do with a Microsoft-hosted ERP. While the company has forged ahead on  Microsoft-hosted CRM,  as of July executives said there was  no decision–yet–on whether Microsoft would host ERP (or accounting) software for customers. Partners already host Microsoft CRM and ERP for some accounts.

A year or so earlier, company CEO Steve Ballmer was giving partners the heads up that Microsoft would host virtually everything in its stable, if the customer demands it.

Also floating around MBS land in the past year were rumors that Axapta (Microsoft Dynamics AX) would be the basis of the converged  ERP code the company had promised. Microsoft has never acknowledged this to be the case and the fact that the rumor has stayed “out there” has hurt Great Plains (Dynamics GP) sales, several partners said.

This quandary shows the pitfalls of buying –and then having to maintain and upgrade–several code bases. Microsoft jumpstarted its business applications push in 2001 when it bought Great Plains Software, which had already bought Solomon. The following year, Microsoft snapped up Navision, of Denmark, which already fielded its eponymous ERP as well as Axapta. The latter two brands are still stronger in Europe than in the U.S. but Axapta sports the most  modern code base of the four products and thus would provide the most up-to-date underpinnings of a converged ERP product.

Stay tuned on this folks. I have a feeling there may be some news on this front soon.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston area freelancer, can be reached at badarrow@comcast.net.


October 12, 2007  8:28 AM

Oracle pulls the trigger on BEA deal

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

Just when you thought Oracle might be settling down, the company makes a $6.6 billion bid for BEA Systems, the app server power.

Such a move has been rumored on and off for some time, but apparently it finally got the stamp of approval up on the eleventh floor in Redwood Shores.

Bloomberg others report that Oracle has contacted BEA’s board with a $17-a share offering—a 25-percent premium over BEA’s closing price of $13-and-change yesterday.

Financier Carl Icahn has upped his stake in BEA over the past few months and has been agitating for action.

Oracle and BEA share a Java-centric focus, but in the past few years Oracle has been building its own app-server business. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison used to boast of the progress his middleware was making at the expense of BEA share.

Several solution providers, some of whom support both Oracle and BEA wares have long speculated about whether or not the pairing would make sense.

This gives Oracle a very strong Java middleware share, said the CEO of one large system integrator who works with both companies and did not want to be named.

”BEA has been under pressure from Oracle, open-source, IBM for awhile and doesn’t have a diverse enough software portfolio to beat the other guys on every deal,” he said. Oracle has the complete solution—database, application server, tools but BEA has retained a better market presence in application servers, he noted.

He said his company tends to sell BEA and Oracle into different accounts. “It’s hard to sell a non Oracle app server into an Oracle account,” he noted.

Should the purchase go through, BEA will join PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Siebel Systems, and a handful of other companies in Oracle’s portfolio. It also follows, by just a few days,  SAP’s announced plan to buy Business Objects, a business intelligence power. SAP and Oracle are the two largest providers of business applications.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston-area freelance journalist, can be reached at Badarrow@comcast.net.


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