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Value-added relationships

Despite the underlying complexity of the analytics, MortgageRamp wanted a product that was easy to use. It selected Decision First Technologies as a partner to set up the system and integrate the software into its own branded product.

"Decision First was established to provide Business Objects solutions," says Taylor Courtnay, VP of sales for Decision First. "Our services include deployment, training and mentoring users after their systems are installed." MortgageRamp considered the company to have the extensive, in-depth knowledge about Business Objects' technology that was needed for the project.

The system at MortgageRamp was installed within three weeks and achieved its purpose of monitoring loan risk and loss mitigation within three months. Over time, MortgageRamp has enhanced the system with a variety of modifications. One aspect of the working relationship with Decision First that is most valued by Pell is its availability to respond to ad hoc questions.

"Decision First may confirm our approach, or redirect us," says Pell. "They are innovative in their thinking and open to creative solutions. Rather than trying to make us too dependent, they help foster our own skills and abilities."

The fact that BI has been a thriving market has helped fuel the development of Decision First into new areas. "Originally we were not in the data warehouse business," says Courtnay, "but now we are extending into that area, because the importance of quality data to analytics is huge."

Its acquisition of Firstlogic put Business Objects into a strong position with respect to data quality, according to Courtnay. "Many applications are good at capturing data, but terrible at getting the data out," he says. "Data needs to be cleansed for quality first. Then it needs to be summarized in a way that is helpful to business users."

As a leading partner of Business Objects, Decision First functions to some degree as a field representative for the vendor. Sometimes Business Objects receives incoming calls from prospective customers, and then refers them to Decision First; more often, customers select Decision First as a partner after conducting their own research or meeting company representatives at a trade show or other venue.

Business Objects carries out about half of its business through partners, including large firms such as Accenture, IBM and BearingPoint. "We have an extremely robust channel program, with multiple models to select from," says Carolyn Cox, senior director of Americas marketing, "and about 3,000 partners of one type or another." Business Objects generally serves the global enterprise customers directly--those customers with revenues above $1 billion--but partners may take on departmental projects even for large firms.

Sometimes a large customer chooses to implement the system in-house, but if the system is very pervasive, as opposed to a single line of business such as finance, more professional services may be required to get up and running. In those cases, the company would typically turn to the services side of Business Objects to deploy the system.

In order to minimize channel conflict, Business Objects has a deal registration system in which all sales staff, whether internal or partner-based, register sales opportunities. The system has proved highly successful, according to Cox. "Sometimes they complement each other and decide to work together, but in any case we are able to coordinate the prospects."

Many different models of partnering can be effective, but they all depend on good relationship building. The relationship may be based on a customer's previous work with a systems integrator, a consulting firm's understanding of the customer's business needs or a good history between vendor and partner. With the right synergy, everyone can come out ahead.

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