Focus On Technology Gray Areas
I recently contacted my local cable television provider to make some changes in my home. The gentleman did a fine job with the digital electronics, but could not provide or install the actual cable required to connect an additional room. This seemed odd to me since both technologies seemed very complementary in nature. "That's a gray area we run into all the time," he explained. "You'll have to call an electrician to put in the cable." All I wanted was a company that could handle the whole job — eliminate the gray area — and I was willing to pay extra for someone who could.
The same thing happens every day with VARs. Nowhere is that more evident than with technology VARs. Consider the example of storage and security technologies. How many of you are storage VARs? How many are security VARs? If you were one of the few who honestly answered "both," then congratulations; you're solidly in the minority. Between each of those technologies is a gray area of convergence that provides some serious sales opportunities.
Let's start with storage VARs. They provide the hardware and software to store and retrieve data. It's always been up to the security VARs to make sure the data is safe. But now, storage vendors are building security into their products. For instance, data encryption is being offered on tape drives and even thumb drives. It won't be long until some of the top storage vendors are building data encryption into their disk-based storage products to protect data at rest — without a third party appliance. If you're a VAR selling storage products, why not cross over into the gray area between storage and security — even if it requires some training?
Even different 'flavors' of security are beginning to converge within their own technology boundaries. For instance, I recently spoke with representatives from Novell and Honeywell — two companies on different ends of the security spectrum. Novell is a software company that makes an identity management product, among others. Honeywell is a company that is known for making physical access control systems. The two recently announced they are integrating Novell's identity management platform into Honeywell's access control security platform. I can just hear some network security resellers saying, "We don't do physical security." What they should be saying is, "How can we get into the physical security market so we can leverage both products and double our sales?" On the other side are traditional physical security VARs that may be reluctant to learn the identity management side of security. What many fail to see is the lucrative gray area that exists between physical and logical security.
Perhaps the example that baffles me most is the fissure that exists between ECM (enterprise content management) and storage technologies. ECM solutions help companies collect, classify, organize, and retrieve data in an efficient manner. ECM software increases the need for storage and archival systems. When combined, ECM and storage provide a virtual endless loop of sales opportunities with one product feeding the other. There is gray area in between that must be addressed, but why not be the VAR that sells both solutions?
Finally, there is the king of all gray areas — regulatory compliance. Although the rules for compliance are anything but gray, the way technologies must be integrated to satisfy those requirements is very gray. As all types of technologies converge, some successful VARs are becoming fluent in multiple technologies to be successful (see feature story on page 26). It is the convergence of those technologies and the resulting gray areas that provide VARs with the biggest opportunities to build sales and become trusted advisors. The next time a customer asks you to cross over into a gray area, think about it carefully. If you say no, you not only may lose that sale, but you may lose your existing business to another VAR that says 'yes.'