Since returning from Cisco Live! I have been working on our next big project. In this case, I will need help in my design and deployment so I have to select the company that will help me; choosing a VAR (Value Added Reseller) for the project is a very important choice. Most companies have a policy of getting three or more SOWs (Statement of Work) from partners, but once they are in you are left with several very similar documents and the main difference is price. Anyone that has been in this industry for any amount of time knows choosing your partner purely based on price is a great way to set yourself up for failure.
So how do you choose a partner? Hopefully, you have taken your stack of SOWs and have whittled them down to a manageable number of potentials. Again, hopefully they all have similar levels of experience with the type of deployment you are looking for and possibly similar prices. One of the things I ask up front is if the company is a Cisco ATP (Advanced Technology Partner). If they are, then they stay in my possibilities stack, if they aren’t then even if they stay in the possible stack they have a long hill to climb in the selection process. A company being a Cisco VAR and an ATP means they have proven expertise in an area. They also have direct access to Cisco product resources beyond the normal TAC (Technical Assistance Center) path I would have to take in opening a case and seeking support.
Once I have my finalists, I ask them into the office to go over their SOWs. You are no doubt going to have a sales guy, but I insist they also bring the engineer they would plan to assign to the project. Meeting the engineer you will be spending a ton of hours with and will be depending on is key. I ask what certifications they hold, how long they have been with their current company, how many times they have worked on a project similar to mine, and if the deployment size was similar. From there I let the conversation wander. Once we get through the meeting, I hopefully have a good feel for the engineer’s skill set and experience, and the company in general. Nine out of ten times I will finish those meetings and know whom I want to work with.
Thanks for reading; I hope this was helpful. So, how do you choose a VAR? Let me know in the comments below.