IBM Shuffles the Deck with Revamped Partner Program

It looks as if IBM is taking a page out of Microsoft’s book. Last night it announced the launch of its new One Channel Team operations strategy, as it works to turn itself around after some poor quarterly figures.

According to Marc Dupaquier, general manager for IBM Global Business Partners, IBM developed this strategy to align core IBM business units around a single channel team.

Come Together

The One Channel Team, which will be led by Dupaquier, pulls together 3000 IBM employees across the company's multiple divisions into one group dedicated to channel needs.

The idea is to simplify the way partners communicate with IBM, making it easier for them to build more profitable lines of business using IBM’s SoftLayer, Watson, security, mobile, systems, services and analytics under a single umbrella.

It’s an interesting strategy, and one that Microsoft started looking at in the last days of Steve Ballmer, when he outlined Microsoft’s ‘One’ strategy, whereby the number of business units was reduced and communication channels between the units were improved.

Whether this tactic has been effective for Microsoft is unclear, given the company's reticence to discuss the internal workings of the company and how it conducts business with partners. However, it is clear that there is fresh energy pumping through the Redmond corridors although that could be as much to do with the new management and CEO as it is to do with restructuring its units.

For IBM, which has not been performing as well as previously in recent quarters it has upgraded its products, reaffirmed its commitment to software and the cloud, and put a lot of time and resources into big data and analytics, after selling off its small chip business to Lenovo in China.

IBM’s One Channel

But none of these efforts would succeed, if IBM didn’t make it easier for customers and partners to do business with the company. Multiple research reports, including Gartner's Magic Quadrants, detailed regular criticism of the complicated nature of the company. In a rapidly changing business landscape where agility is key, complicated partner channels won’t cut it.

With the One Channel Team, we’ve built a strong, dynamic partner ecosystem that is designed to make it easier for Business Partners to build more profitable lines of business. Business Partners who have already transformed with us are seeing the results," Dupaquier said.

Dupaquier was speaking at IBM’s PartnerWorld Leadership conference, which gathered together 950 partners from around the world.

In terms of IBM’s overall business strategy, he said One Channel would enable IBM to realize its move to what he described as higher value solutions, a move that includes dumping unproductive business units, as it did with the small chip business.

Dupaquier also flagged the released of IBM Verse, which is due in March. Verse will provide business partners with an improved mail and social experience offing services like messaging, migration and support according to Dupaquier.

Four Goals

IBM has four specific goals with One Channel:

1. Enhanced Education

IBM plans to give its partners a wider and deeper set of skills around its software through an enhanced education program. To do this, it is offering over 300 new workshops that will focus on areas that IBM deems to be either profitable, or has future business potential.

In tandem with these workshops, IBM is also developing a "Know Your IBM" portal with increased earning potential to reward sales and technical staff for improved performances. It will also offer partners a new set of modules focusing on cutting edge technology in growth areas like cloud and analytics.

2. Marketing And Developer Tools

Using increased digital and social campaigns, it will provide business partners with more web-based marketing and social media content across IBM’s portfolio. This will be delivered through the enhancement of the IBM Digital Content Marketing Platform.

IBM will also increase technical assets needed to build and port customized server and storage solutions with OpenPOWER Developer Tools. The new assets will enable the development of new solutions with IBM's open, licensable architecture.

3. Broadening Partner Ecosystems

IBM will also broaden IBM’s dedicated developer engagement community with dW Answers, where IBM subject matter experts and external peers will provide support, share expertise and build their network.

There, users will find new topic and solution specific Developer Centers as well as dedicated places for IBM development communities to contact and engage with each other.

It also intends to make Watson a lot more marketable with new opportunities for partners to resell Watson Explorer, a combination of data exploration and analytics capabilities. This will create a bridge between cloud-based services and on premise proprietary information. For end users, Watson Explorer, will enable clients reduce unnecessary research time, and work faster.

4. Better Bottom Lines

IBM intends to increase compensation through the Partner Growth Incentive for selling IBM Power Systems and IBM Storage. The new program will offer quarterly incentives that doubles if targets are met, as well as bonuses if specific skills sets and certifications are met.

IBM will also offer a 10 percent margin enhancement on incremental revenue for achieving revenue growth targets when reselling IBM Services.

Whether any of these measures makes any difference to the bottom line for IBM remains to be seen, but it does point to an awareness at board level that something needs to be done to boost sluggish performances. If the reorganization can be achieved without disrupting business, this could be a good start.

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