Solidworks VAR's Consolidation into MVAR's..... What are some long term impacts?

Hello All… so one of the biggest reasons for the overall success, like them or not, was the Value added reseller (VAR)…due to sales team, direct tech support, training, and help with implementation. To be fair this wasn’t a new thing, there had been other VAR channels for software before… maybe it was the combination of CAD being done on Windows, Solidworks’ “ease of use”… etc. Back in the’90’s and I day up until around 2010 Solidworks was really THE goto CAD software in the mid-range offerings. The others were Inventor and Solidedge. (some could argue Rhino 3D but that’s for another topic of discussion.) The ground was already starting to get shaky, in terms of a change happening, it could be “smelled in the wind” if you will. Even when hardcore users started noticing these changes and pointing it out to SW-HQ/DDS employees the answers were “Hey nothing is changing here…” or “Solidworks isn’t going away…”. Which, for the most part is still al true but if at this point in time you haven’t felt the pushing/shoving of 3D Experience down your digital throats then consider yourself fortunate.

But I digress this post is about Monster VAR’s (MVAR’s) and what this means for users…

I’d say at the height of things there were maybe about 50 VAR’s across the US. (I’m just pulling this number out of thins air, but there certainly were a lot of VAR’s at one point). With today’s acquisition of Go Engineering’s buying out CATI which had just not too long ago bought Fisher Unitec and with Tri-Mech acquiring Javelin, this pretty much leaves under 10, I dare say maybe 5, VAR’s left. There are some mom & pop VAR’s here and there… CAD Dimensions, CimQuest…etc but the MUCH bigger question at hand is end user(s) experience.

Back when I did tech support, even though it was mainly the North East, filled with about 1000 customers being supported in 3D Printing, 3D Scanning, and mainly Solidworks and all related products… you got pretty familiar with client’s, what their general issues were…etc. Even back then there were end SW users that had more experience than the tech support people being hired. (let’s face it 5 MAYBE 10 years of tech support and you’re either going to get burned out and move on or your being promoted to some other higher areas of training or implementation. And the knowledge continuity each time a knowledgeable tech support person would leave or move up left a huge deficit that took time to backfill. This would also leave end users quite peeved and kind of rightfully so, they’re paying the same amount annually yet getting “less” service.

Much of the consolidation of the VAR’s was inevitable, but the size, scope, and magnitude I don’t think anyone would have imagine happening 25 years ago. From what I know a lot of this got started with Private Equity/Venture Capitalist’s getting there $$$ into the mix to help the acquisitions happen. That the overall 70% - 90% retention rate of companies staying on the annual maintenance of Solidworks is just easy $$$ to these companies. Basically with very little overhead needed to cover what the VAR’s were already doing meant that this is easier than taking candy from a baby. The $$ just rolls in automatically without very little effort… I mean what company doesn’t want to be the “latest and greatest” version of Solidworks. (Though I’ve seen some people hold out 2 or 3 versions behind just due to their production pipeline or it’s just a basic P.I.T.A. to install a new version onto everyone’s computer).

Now here are some of the downstream things that I’ve already started to notice across the board… tech support has not equaled the new shifts in scope, scale, and magnitude. Sure there is much more of a chance for their to be overlap but does that mean they newly formed company keeps both people or if more then all? What about time zone shifts…? This “might” be a plus because tech support or training can happen outside of just 9am - 5pm. Familiarity, as mentioned previously, some of these VAR’s stretch from Maine to Florida, Wash State to Texas… there were times when certain tech support people were assigned to automatically handle certain types of cases or certain client’s only but this is somewhat theoretical I don’t know. Overall I don’t see these MVAR’s truly rising to the occasion that warrants the size of territories that they now cover.

Another VERY big change is the tail is now wagging the dog. Any OEM that these MVAR’s currently sell/support are in for a pounding… Stratasys, 3D Systems, Creaform, Artec, Solidworks…etc they could have told and small mom & pop shop what to do, what pricing to keep to hold the line. And not that there weren’t times when an OEM would be flexible with what would Ultimately be the end client’s needs but they’d only go but so far. Now these MVAR’s can basically say “Hey we’re going to do X, Y, and Z with the product and if you don’t like Mr.OEM then sure go ahead and lose 1/2 the country overnight with no back up VAR’s to take our place”. Now this is somewhat of an exaggeration but not without some merit to the idea that the OEM’s now HAVE to listen to these MVAR’s… they’re equals, no longer peons. Of course the VAR’s that sold a lot got preferential treatment because the name of the game is sales.

Here is a perfect example…I’ve seen Solidworks HQ cut off a VAR simply because they started selling Space Claim… There was no warning, no heads up, no “hey don’t sell that competing product”…that won’t happen today. That’s what I mean by tail wagging the dog. These MVAR’s really are “too big to fail” for these OEM’s. In the 3D Printing world, you couldn’t sell both Stratasys and 3D Systems… just wasn’t going to and still can’t happen. Not saying that this is what any MVAR is going to do but if they wanted to, these OEM’s have no back up for sales and especially enough internal technicians that can go out and help with repairs the wealth of machines out in the field.

There are many more examples that I could dive into, maybe I’m completely off base here, would love to get some feedback about maybe some of your lived experience with your MVAR. Are there access to new resources that you didn’t have before? Are you seeing any additional efforts from the MVAR’s to provide you extra support, training…etc? Are you seeing any price increases?

This is all really interesting, wonder what will happen next. We’ve used Hawk Ridge basically forever. Pre pandemic they had a nice SolidWorks tutorial/demo evening at a local restaurant/conference room, along with piles of various 3D printer tech along the side tables. It was a fun meet-and-greet.
Since then, nothing like that has happened, for obvious reasons. And the training is now 100% online (I think) for CAD, debatable if that’s better/worse.
SolidWorks just seems bloated and not real innovative these days - wouldn’t be my CAD of choice in a perfect world.

I think Dassault will start to drop products like solidworks and ICEM, everything seems to be getting pushed into 3D experience/CATIA
I know what you mean though. Back in the late 90’s when I bought my first 2 CATIA V4 licences, there were plenty of resellers to choose from (in the UK) it seemed to me that once Dassault started selling direct, cutting out IBM, the resellers started to fall away.
Actually, maybe the move away from UNIX killed off the resellers too.