Business package partners would plug gaps: Microsoft

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Microsoft is recruiting partners for its Business Solutions channel in Australia and New Zealand, doubling its point of sale software resellers to 40 or 50 and its retail management-focused ISVs to four.

Jim Greene, a senior Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) product manager based at the company's Redmond headquarters, said the vendor wished to add another 20 or 30 specialist point-of-sale products resellers to its 20 or 25 here.
Microsoft also wanted another two to four ISVs -- today it has two -- focused on retail package development in Australasia, he said.

'We could potentially have more ISVs come from the enterprise space. More than likely it's probably about two or three [ISVs] in the next year -- it takes time for them to ramp up,' Greene said.

Greene said AMI Research figures suggested that 16 percent of smaller and mid-size retailers were looking at buying a point-of-sale application this year and that only 25 percent of companies with websites were doing e-commerce.

Adopting business applications such as point-of-sale software and Small Business Server 2003 would help many companies save tens of thousands of dollars each year, he claimed.

Companies such as ISV and reseller Professional Advantage -- which has just won several global Microsoft partner awards -- had already proven Australia had strong skills to offer in this space, Greene said.

Flemming Beisner, MD of MBS Australasia, said Australia's SMB base created a different approach to the retail market, and thus in the type of applications needed. 'I think Australia is an interesting market when you talk about retail, because it is really very heavy with smaller companies,' he said.

Microsoft wasn't so interested in serving the larger retail companies, such as K-Mart. 'That's not our target market,' Beisner said.

Alison Dodd, business group director of small and mid-market solutions and the partner group at Microsoft Australia, stressed that for Microsoft Australia as a whole the theme was around developing the partner relationships it already had rather than netting new resellers.

'We already have a very good MBS channel and we have over 100 partners working in Australia and New Zealand with a range of technology. Our focus is really to help our existing partners be more successful,' she said.

However, last year only about 50 or 60 percent of those partners were actually active, so Microsoft wanted to 'help them get re-committed', she said.

Microsoft had gaps in its channel in terms of certain products -- such as MBS -- and in terms of geographical coverage, she said. 'We are definitely trying to grow the MBS channel for some solutions sets, such as CRM and retail management. They have only a very small channel -- very focused and committed -- but the size of that market ... is enormous,' Dodd said.

Fleur Doidge travelled to the Microsoft Australia & New Zealand Partner Conference 2003 as a guest of Microsoft.

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