Food for Thought: In a World Of Partner Solutions Does the ISV or SI Partner Designation Matter?

Old World Definition Of Software Partners Still Prevalent
From a vendor's point of view, partners can play a critical role in expediting time to market, improving sales reach, or delivering a complimentary solution to a customer. There traditionally have been 5 defined categories:

  • ISV - Independent Software Vendors specialize in delivery software. They typically partner to complement a solution offering or create an integrated solution offering for a target market.
  • SI - System Integrators focus on bringing various technology components including software to ensure a complete solution. They bring a solution offering to life and may also provide additional business transformation services.
  • VAR - Value added resellers build on top of existing solutions and to resell the "value add" on top of an existing product. VARs partner by expanding a solution offering for a geography, market segment, industry, or role.
  • OEM -Original Equipment Manufacturers develop components for use by another company in their product. In this context, the vendor provides their solution as an OEM to be embedded by a partner.
  • Technology Partner - Technology partners supply solutions in other areas such as hardware, networking, tools, and related components.

Next Generation Partner Solutions Blur the Lines
Recent discussions with over 150 customers and partners of software vendors and their partners at Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, SAP, Lawson,, and NetSuite highlight two trends:

  • ISV's continue to provide system integration via new services. The hunt for quarter to quarter growth has many of the ISV's bulking up their pro services offerings. While many of these vendors continue to build additional partnerships to expand their reach, there remains considerable investment in internal professional services teams and other value added consulting offerings. Some examples include additional "value added" support services or business value services offerings.
  • System integrators break ISV dependencies by delivering solutions via SaaS or PaaS. Previously, the large consulting firms have invested in solution platforms for custom delivery to clients such as a specific utility billing platform, tax collection system, or telecom call center solution. By moving to a one to many multi-tenant deployment option, system integrators break their dependency on a vendor and can now mitigate the cost of supporting clients should they choose a multi-tenant approach. This means they can deliver one to many support and get into the solutions game without worrying about excessive costs to support various client templates and deployment intricacies

The bottom line.
In the world of partners and partner solutions, customers remain confused at all these designations. At the end of the day, they just want to know the solution is offered in a consistent fashion, certified, supported, and part of a socialized ecosystem.
Your turn.
You've heard my view. As I write this, I'm in the midst of my next report on solution centric ecosystems. Do you agree or disagree that these designation no longer have the same meaning? Is there value in having a uniform way of evaluating these new partner solutions sans the old world monikers? Would a maturity model help? Looking forward to your comments!
(The personal contents in this blog do not reflect the opinions, ideas, thoughts, points of view, and any other potential attribution of my current, past, or future employers. All NDA's have been honored.)
Copyrighted 2008 by R Wang. All rights reserved.

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