Vendor partner programs are very big on training VARs on the latest-and-greatest vendor technologies–where they fall short is in helping partners with their overall business strategy. A Microsoft pilot program that aims to fill that gap is winning kudos from partners.
Microsoft’s nascent Analyst Relations for the Channel (ARC) program gives select Microsoft Gold partners access to Gartner Inc. or Forrester Research analysts and online resources and two participants said the service has been invaluable.
“We’ve had three or four conversations with Gartner analysts and they’ve been very helpful. [The sessions] help us plan out our strategy,” said Lee Blackstone, CEO of Blackstone & Cullen, an Alpharetta, Ga.-basedGold partner specializing in business intelligence and collaboration.
Gartner is good for going over things that may be huge in terms of hype and buzzwords but more difficult when it comes to building real-world pay back, he said. Enterprise search is one oft-used example of that phenomenon.
The pilot is available to up to 500 Gold Certified partnesr and it is not free. Partners pay $2,500 for a year’s subscription to Gartner’s services, including a custom portal of user-selected research. VARs also get access to Gartner’s widely quoted Magic Quadrants. And they can participate in monthly analyst conference calls.
The Forrester subscription goes for $5,200 per year including unlimited access to all of Forrester’s written vendor-focused Technology Industry (TI) and user-oriented IT research as well as one-on-one calls with analysts.
In this tough economy, VARs need more support and help planning where to place their long-term bets.
“This helps us validate our business direction,” said another Gold partner who also signed up for Gartner. “It also helps because a lot of our customers use these services and it helps us know what they’re hearing from the analysts.”