There are, frankly, only a few companies that can expect to compete for the honour of being named Corporate Distribution Partner of the Year.
This is simply because consolidation has brought the UK sector down to just a few firms that have the scale to service resellers that are focused on meeting the needs of large end-user organisations.
It should be kept in mind, however, that the award is destined to go to the distributor that has done the best job in helping resellers to develop profitable corporate business in 2003. Size is by no means the only factor in this category.
One company that certainly has the scale is Computer 2000 (C2000). In its submission for the 2003 award, C2000 claimed it is doing everything it can to deliver the services corporate resellers need to maximise their potential.
Certainly the company's logistics and financial strength are impressive. It has a 500,000 sq ft logistics centre, and Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and XML data feed links to top corporate resellers.
Major corporate accounts are given dedicated management, backed by a team of field sales executives that provide broader support for large accounts.
C2000 also offers private label delivery and drop shipment, and its Licensing OnLine tool is one of the most successful in the market. "We're pleased to have been nominated for the Corporate Distributor award in what has been a challenging year," said Julian Klein, managing director of the company.
"While we'd always hope to win we know that a lot of companies have worked very hard this year to win enterprise business. We've worked hard in every area of our business, which is why, I guess, we are in the running for the SME award as well."
ETC is not a small company but has much more of a focus on the enterprise market. In its submission the company claimed to have "an unrivalled understanding of the needs of the UK's largest corporate resellers".
It works closely with a select group of vendors with whom it has long established relationships, namely Hewlett Packard, IBM, Toshiba and Citrix. It is one of HP's largest partners within Europe and has also established relationships with Acer, NEC/Mitsubishi and VMWare recently.
The company has made significant investment this year in its Enterprise Solutions Group, increasing its focus and expertise on Intel platforms.
ETC has also enhanced its online e-commerce tool, Exchange, adding features and improving ordering and reporting processes.
ETC claimed that it has one of the best staff retention rates in the industry and that this guarantees vendors and resellers a high quality of service and support, and a real understanding of their business.
Sue Smith, sales director at ETC, said that being nominated matters a great deal to everyone at the company.
"It means that we are, despite much competition out there, still in the minds of our resellers, which is great and something that we value. It stands us in good stead in the corporate market," she said.
Smith believes the firm that deserves to win will win, because in the end, it is the resellers who decide. "If that's the basis on which winners are decided then yes, as many votes as possible count. This demonstrates not only the credibility of the Awards themselves, but also the credibility of the winner of the award."
Ideal has worked hard to build on its corporate business again this year. It set up its dedicated corporate division, Ideal Enterprise Solutions, in 2001 and says this has now become a major part of its business, providing solutions based on the offerings of leading vendors and consultancy services.
These are provided through Ideal's dedicated professional services arm, the Infrastructure Design Practice (IDP), which is "giving resellers a way to provide top-grade services that they would never have been able to offer in the past", said the company.
The IDP is, it claimed, "addressing crucial enterprise issues such as server and application infrastructure management, and the data explosion due to email, CRM and internet applications". All of its services are delivered exclusively through resellers.
More recently it established a security division and commissioned in-depth research into the differences in attitudes to security solutions between IT departments and board members in major enterprises and SMEs in the UK.
It has also set up Licence Desk on the internet and run its Think series of seminars to help resellers understand key issues.
While Alex Tatham, vice president of software at Ideal's parent company, Bell Microproducts, said he will not be too concerned if Ideal does not win this particular award, he feels that the company deserves at least one to show for its efforts in 2003.
"Winning the Storage Distributor of the Year for the past three years has helped with our brand and confirmed our expertise in this field.
"This year we hope that our all-round efforts will be rewarded and the other great things we do - software licensing, security and systems - will play a part in us winning an award," he said.
In its submission, the other major broadline distributor, Ingram Micro, said its aim is to "enable our corporate customers to provide better customer value and service by reducing the time and resources spent on issues of product and information provision".
It does this by providing a wide range of services (not all of which are provided by its rivals) including asset tagging, configuration, contract warehousing, drop ship, personalised delivery, re-packaging and returns management.
With 250,000 sq ft of warehouse capacity it has considerable resources and dedicated account management for corporate customers, backed by specialist teams. It also provides financing services and its Select Source proprietary finance programme enables corporate customers to transact business without buying stock or taking on the customer invoicing and cash collection.
This scheme is aimed at resellers selling to the corporate or government markets that are looking to reduce the cost of sale.
Ingram Micro will also be hoping to pick up at least one award this year. It has been very active in 2003 in the corporate sector, improving its online ordering and licensing services through its Clic2License system and XML connectivity with its InsideLine transaction processing system.
Ingram has also made its own configuration tools for HP PCs and servers available this year. The final name on the Corporate Distribution short list is Westcon. This company believes that its strength lies in its focus and commitment to its customers and its account-management approach.
As a networking specialist, Westcon runs specific programmes for key vendors, such as the Aspire scheme for Nortel resellers. It has dedicated vendor account managers and provides free sales, technical and marketing training for partners, with Fast Track courses being tailored to customer needs.
Westcon's MarketVision specialist marketing team provides all-round support for resellers, and over the past year has commissioned reports on three separate vertical markets, which it used to help resellers to conduct targeted activities.
All the votes in the Channel Awards have been counted and the winner of this year's Corporate Distributor award will have been decided. With more votes than ever being cast, the winner should go to the company that truly deserves the accolade.
BOOK YOUR TABLE NOW
This year's Channel Awards will be presented on Wednesday 19 November at Battersea Park in London.
Voting for the awards has been verified by the Audit Bureau of Circulation.
Channel Awards voting short list 2003
Corporate Vendor Partner
SME Vendor Partner
BT Indirect Channels
Specialist Vendor Partner
Parity ICT IT Partnerships
Corporate Distribution Partner
SME Distribution Partner
Specialist Distribution Partner
Outstanding Product of the Year
AMD Opteron 64bit processor
Intel Centrino processor
Microsoft Windows Server 2003
Acer TravelMate 800 series
D-Link DSL-604+ wireless modem router
Smart Board SB-560
HP/Compaq Tablet PC TC1000
Bluesocket WG-2100 wireless gateway
Computer 2000 (0870) 060 3344
ETC (0121) 766 7337
Ideal (020) 8286 5000
Ingram Micro (0870) 1660 422
Westcon (01753) 797 800
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