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While Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, SAP and each offer a channel program for ISV partners, not all programs are the alike, and partners should evaluate each carefully to find the best fit before they allocate their scarce resources to one or the other.

A new study from Forrester Research called Choosing an ISV Partner Program takes a look at the ISV channel programs of all five vendors – four software giants and one disruptive player — evaluating the various aspects of the programs.  And rather than offer a sweeping generalization about the best program for various types of ISVs, the report advises partners to look at a number of factors when making a decision.

"It’s about fit," says Merv Adrian, the report’s author and a senior vice president at analyst firm Forrester Research. For example, different ISV companies enter the value cycle at different points, Adrian says, with smaller companies entering at the "Build" part of the cycle.

Microsoft offers more support and resources for companies in that "Build" phase of the cycle, so Microsoft’s ISV program is typically well suited for smaller ISVs or those who are just getting started.

"Companies like SAP and Salesforce don’t make a big program investment around helping people build that first product, but Microsoft does have a lot to offer there," Adrian says. IBM also offers support to those in the "Build" phase but "if you want to move up in the IBM program you have to show how you are leveraging hardware sales," says Adrian. He breaks down the value chain into four entry points: Build, Market, Sell and Manage.