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Three years after buying Rational, IBM has changed the enterprise role of Rational software and finds it now fit for the channel.

What used to be a software development application has emerged, after some retooling and rebranding from IBM, as an application for governing the business processes of software delivery, part of an enterprise’s overall IT governance and a tool intended to be used in tandem with IBM’s Tivoli.

The application, which had been sold almost exclusively (97 percent) by a direct sales force, now has a mission-critical role in IT organizations, and needs a channel of “trusted adviser” resellers to make its case to enterprise clients, said Scott Hebner, IBM’s vice president of Marketing & Strategy for Rational.

Two IBM partners integrate Rational software. Click here to read more.

“When we represented [Rational] as a software development tool, we were underselling the value of the application,” Hebner said. “The product is really about managing a portfolio of resources and business processes and delivering against a target. It’s part of the end-to-end life-cycle management of IT now. Now you’re talking process and portfolio management, managing risk, mitigating risk, compliance, Sarbanes-Oxley.”

This year, the company has recruited 150 VARs to sell the Rational line and has increased indirect sales to 20 percent of total revenue, said IBM, based in Armonk, N.Y.

Changes in the channel program and the way the Rational line is marketed and sold have made the product attractive to new markets and a new set of customers, said one of those resellers, Darrin D. Nelson, vice president of Software and Services for Strategic Computer Solutions, in Syracuse, N.Y.

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The IT governance angle would be attractive to enterprise customers with large engineering departments, but the decision to market Rational products apart from the suite makes the line available to the SMB (small and midsize business) market, Nelson said.

“They made it consumable and made it available to the small business,” he said. “It used be a very stingy product and it really only fit in the large enterprise … SMBs are focused on getting the job done. They’re not concerned with recurring governance. Theirs is a tactical view of the world. They want to get the Point A to Point B as efficiently and as cost-effectively as possible. Now they can [acquire] the pieces of Rational they need to do that.”

In the future, IBM expects to capitalize on the relationship with Tivoli, the company said.