The Peer-to-Peer blog is a forum for Channel Partners readers with the goal of stimulating discussion among partners about important issues impacting their business. The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Channel Partners editors or publishers. If you are interested in submitting a blog, please contact Managing Editor Buffy Naylor, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Top 5 Questions VARs Should Ask When Selecting a Document Management Partner
By Jim True
Many value added resellers (VARs) are looking to grow revenue by diversifying with new products and services. This diversification needs to complement existing offerings and become an accumulative revenue source. Businesses are constantly looking for better ways to improve efficiency and protect sensitive information while making information more accessible when needed. As a result, chances are that document management will be considered an ideal candidate in helping businesses reach their objectives.
In most cases, adding “paperless" to your offerings means adding a new document management partner. Making a list of document management vendors is easy. Qualifying an ideal partner is a bit more difficult, but well worth the upfront effort. Here are five questions you can use to help determine which vendor is right for you.
1. How long have you been providing document management solutions?
Look for someone who has been in the industry long enough to demonstrate good staying power. Companies having 10 or more years of experience understand how to operate in challenging business climates and are more likely to be there when you need them. The other benefit that comes with experience is a better understanding of what does and doesn't work for various industries. If your business encounters opportunities across industries or works with multiple departments within an industry, look for a partner that is a match for your focus.
2. Is your technology hosted or premises-based, or both?
Look for flexibility. Not all of your clients will fit the same business model, so don’t force yourself in the corner by only selling a hosted or premises-based solution. Hosted solutions generate steady recurring revenue and premises-based solutions provide a larger initial payment. However, both give you equal opportunity to sell the professional services your customers need to configure and customize a system to their needs.
3. What do your current VARs say about you?
All vendors will give similar answers, like “We’re great!" Dig a little deeper by asking “Why?". While there may be some product differences between vendors that should be considered, what’s more important to learn is whether this vendor help you grow your business. You need a vendor that can work with you at your level. If you’re just starting in document management, you need a vendor that can educate and train you and your team. Is support accessible? The last thing you want to do is be in the field and not have a lifeline. Finally, make sure the vendor will protect your opportunity and not saturate the area with a bunch of other VARs.
4. What else is included in your document management solution?
Document management has gone well beyond traditional file and retrieval capabilities of years past. Generally speaking, there are five key areas a modern document management system should be good at providing:
- Bringing documents into the system
- Finding documents and folders in the system
- Controlling access and protecting information
- Integrating with existing systems, such as accounting, HR, practice management, etc.
- Automating existing processes by applying electronic workflow, scheduling, and the ability to share information with outside contacts (customers, partners, etc.).
5. Am I a qualified VAR?
The final question should help determine if you and the document management partner both put skin in the game. Becoming a good document management VAR requires commitment. You will need to assign sales and technical resources to the document management area/division of your business. More likely than not, there will be a fee to become a VAR. This fee is money well spent. It keeps tire kickers out and typically includes training and software for you to use in your business. Keep in mind, the right partner will also be making a large investment in helping your team become successful.
Are there more questions? Absolutely, but these five will take you a long way in finding the right document management partner that understands what it takes and is willing to go the extra mile in building a win-win-win — for you, your customer and the partner.
Jim True is vice president at Cabinet, a document management and workflow provider, based in Madison, Alabama.