For a long time, I joked to myself that Microsoft had to bring the former Great Plains Stampede to end earlier in this decade because its resellers were getting too old to drink and party all night and still attend conference events. I don't know that any group can take up the GP party mantle. But it was refreshing to see fewer gray heads in Chicago.
Intuit's BJ Schaknowksi, who leads the ISP business thinks that as a new generation takes over business, the new managers want solutions, not just boxes, and the organizations selling Intuit's QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions software are providing more consulting services than the typical dealer does. The good VARs in the mid-market have been doing that for a few years. But there are probably many more who don't.
I think that's probably a factor. But I believe good, old-fashioned channel economics is at work. It's simply that the cost of entry to sell QBES is a lot lower than the cost of entry for products like Dynamics, Accpac and Sage's MAS line. The generation still running many VAR organizations would not have been able to get into this business if the cost of picking up Solomon or Macola is what it is today. They were able to start their businesses with less knowledge than they probably needed and to learn the business and the technology as both matured together. QBES starts at $3,000 and a person who wants to take on the product doesn'thave to shell out $10,000 or more for training. In fact, someone else made the observation that mid-market buyers are fed up with the bloated bodies that now dominate the financial software market, products with too many features that are too expensive and cost too much to maintain.
QBES resets the clock. It enables many QuickBooks ProAdvisors to graduate into the reselling channel--although the real judgment will be made when we can total up how many attendees from this year's event are still in business next year.
There were 430 resellers present at the Fairmont. And although I don't know yet how many VAR businesses were in attendance, I bet it's a lot more than you'd find in a gathering of 430 Dynamics dealers. Yes, there were some decently large Sage VARs present, such as newly signed CBiz. But there were many obviously small shops.
In fact, it reminded me of the old State of the Art channel when CPAs ruled the MAS 90 roost. There were a lot of name tags that showed what looked like small tax and accounting businesses. And there were more CPA firms evident than I've seen in a long time at conferences held by competing vendors.
It's remains to be seen if the cost structure of traditional resellers enable them to make money on QBES. But the wheel is turning and it makes you feel younger just hanging around this group.