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Looking to attract VARs and business domain experts as partners for its build-your-own SAAS offering, Intuit has introduced a formal channel program for its code-free application development and hosted platform, QuickBase.

Intuit is pitching the program as a way for VARs to diversify their revenue streams to include software as a service, considered a rapidly growing market area that has the potential to change the business models for VARs and other channel partners.

Intuit hosts all the data and enables quick entry to the program by eliminating any upfront fees. Instead there’s a monthly licensing fee that starts as low as $250 a month per end-user site for 10 users. Above that, fees are $3 per user.

Partners in the program get commissions back that range anywhere from 20 to 35 percent of revenue based on the monthly fee. In addition, they receive any consulting fees they charge to the end client. 

Forrester research said that SAAS adoption by SMBs grew by 58 percent in 2007. For more on how the trend will affect the market, click here.

Intuit is also offering leads to partners that it has gathered through its own marketing efforts and is providing marketing support as well. Partners also have access to the existing QuickBase CRM and project management applications, and they get enhanced technical support.

Some partners stand to gain from SAAS adoption while others will be hurt by it. To find out where you stand, click here.

Intuit is also providing training on developing applications with the platform, according to Alex Chriss, group manager of business development and channel sales for Intuit’s QuickBase organization. But no development experience is needed to start creating applications, he said. Rather, Intuit expects business domain experts to create vertical applications based on their own industry knowledge. The product is geared toward those partners, not independent software developers.

"This is not a reseller program," said Chriss. "We want them to build a viable business and be pushing their domain expertise." And because the offering comes from Intuit, which offers accounting software and services for SMBs, Chriss said the name is more likely to be trusted as a secure one in terms of dealing with sensitive data.

Other companies are offering VARs quick entry points into the SAAS space, too. Click here to learn more.

Intuit bought the QuickBase technology in an acquisition eight years ago and has been selling it to workgroups within large companies since then. Intuit says the program is used by 45 of the Fortune 100.

However, over the last year Intuit took a look at who some of its other users were and found about 25 consultants who had built businesses around the applications they created by using QuickBase.

The largest of those consulting firms is Advantage Integrated Solutions, founded by Scott Wyatt several years ago. A consultant to CEOs looking for dashboards to view their company information in a quick and easy way, Wyatt had been using spreadsheets and other similar software to accomplish what his clients needed.  But then one of his clients asked him about QuickBase.  From there Wyatt built the company from a one-man operation to one with 10 employees and more than $1 million in revenues.

"I’m not a developer and never was," Wyatt said. "You can be expert in the native tools without being a developer. You can solve problems without IT support."

While Wyatt said that QuickBase was no ERP (enterprise resource planning) replacement, he did say the platform has grown to be much more powerful, scalable and valuable in the years since he first began to use it.

QuickBase also offers an API that enables developers to integrate it with other popular applications such as One of the implementations Wyatt’s company created was one that used APIs to interface with a cell phone provider’s alert system.

Wyatt’s experience, and that of several other consultants, convinced Intuit to create a formal program and recruit VARs and business domain experts as QuickBase partners.

"Traditional VARs are being significantly disrupted by SAAS," said Chriss. "For VARs, you are delivering no value at a high cost with SAAS. The VAR’s margins are being removed completely."

To regain some of that value, Chriss believes that VARs can create and sell SAAS applications to their end-clients using the QuickBase platform.

"Both Intuit QuickBase and are disrupting the traditional VAR markets by supporting our partners’ ability to provide cost-effective and high-value solutions to their customers," Chriss said. "With QuickBase, business consultants with specific domain expertise can leverage their business knowledge to provide customized, right-for-me applications to their customers, without the need for extensive technical training."