Partners Stay True to Big BlueBy Sharon Linsenbach | Print
Partners say they'll stay true to IBM while it tries to resolve the federal government contracting ban.
While IBM struggles with the fallout from its federal government suspension, it can take heart that its VARs aren't ready to give up on IBM just yet.
Steve Charles, co-founder of ImmixGroup, a business development firm and IBM partner, said he was extremely surprised that the suspension was levied at all, since in his experience IBM went to great lengths to avoid these types of sanctions.
Charles said IBM knew and rigidly adhered to the codes of conduct surrounding government business and explicitly spelled out codes of ethics, standards of employee behavior and proper procedure. He said all IBM employees were required to go through federal government training, and were given "thick handbooks and manuals spelling out compliance requirements," he said.
"The irony of this is I've seen IBM learn some [confidential government information] they weren't supposed to know, alerted the agency of the situation, returned that information to the government and backed away from that procurement rather than risk seeming improper," Charles said.
He said ImmixGroup has had some orders cancelled or put on hold, but has also continued to receive some orders.
"As a contractor, ImmixGroup wasn't suspended, though IBM was," Charles said. He added that the suspension was full of subtle nuances that even some government agencies struggled to understand.
"We represent all manner of commercial products, some are commodities we can source through any distributor," he said. And while in some instances the ability to source commoditized, in stock, IBM products represents a loophole, some agencies aren't willing to take the chance.
"There are folks in the government that will say, 'We can buy this, sure,' but there are others who will say, 'No, that product says IBM on it, therefore it's banned,'" he said.
Charles said the suspension also affected contract modifications, including updates to GSA pricing schedules, which change on an almost daily basis. As product prices change and are updated on the GSA schedules, vendors like IBM and contractors like ImmixGroup must modify their contracts to reflect those changes. If the contract officer at a particular agency refuses to process IBM contract modifications, then contracts become irrelevant, Charles said.