Did you hear the one about the software retail store that started selling software as a service? No really. I mean, how does that work? You walk into the store, go up to the display, and buy what looks like a box of software (sitting next to Intuit's Quickbooks). But when you open it up, take the CD out and put it into your PC, the AUTOPLAY functionality just takes you to www.netsuite.com. Wait a minute. You didn't have to make a trip to CompUSA to get a URL, did you? So what's going on here. Well, that's not really how a deal, announced at C3 Expo in New York City, between CompUSA and on-demand CRM/SFA/accounting service provider NetSuite works. But, in what could be the first deal of its kind, CompUSA is in fact reselling NetSuite's software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering.
CompUSA apparently has a thriving SMB channel that doesn't necessarily involve customers walking in through the front door of a retail outlet. As Bill Maddux, executive vice president of CompUSA's Business and Technology Services division explained to me, CompUSA has a lot of companies that started small using software like Intuit's QuickBooks but that are outgrowing that software. By becoming a reseller of NetSuite, CompUSA now has an option to offer those customers that need something that involves low IT overhead but that can be easily deployed to a growing number of employees. It's a tailor-made problem for any SaaS-based solution given the fact that there's not a whole of IT management involved (very SMB-friendly). For example, because it's browser-based and the functionality is served from NetSuite's datacenter, SMBs don't have to worry about upgrading software or backing up their data. That's all covered by NetSuite (at an average cost of $99 per user per month).
Perhaps the bigger reason that the deal between the two companies makes sense (and the genesis for the deal in the first place according to NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson) are 600+ technology classrooms that CompUSA runs across the country. During a celebratory dinner at New York City's trendy Spotted Pig Restaurant, Nelson told me about how a field sales rep at CompUSA was approached by a CompUSA customer and was asked if the company offered any training for NetSuite. CompUSA didn't. But it does now as a result of that one request. While CompUSA handles the training aspects, the company is being careful not to step on the toes of the many private (and local) consultancies that have, to date, served as a channel for both reselling and implementing NetSuite for SMBs. Should CompUSA 's customers require help with implementation of NetSuite, Maddux told me that they actually refer that piece of business to one of the existing consultancies.
The idea of a retailer like CompUSA with a large, nationally deployed training infrastructure partnering with a company like NetSuite seems like such a natural fit, I asked Maddux if CompUSA was contemplating deals with any other SaaS providers. Maddux agreed that it's a direction that CompUSA could easily take but said the company needed to focus on the success of its partnership with NetSuite before contemplating any more deals.