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This
week IBM locked its targets in on enabling its channel to take better advantage
of the cloud by rolling out a new initiative that it says will provide partners
the means to improve their cloud skill sets and minimize the steps required to
start selling cloud-based solutions.

Offered
initially as a pilot program to customers who have attended Big Blue’s Smarter
Commerce events, the program for partners will give them access to web analytics
in enterprise market management and business-to-business connectivity in
commerce. IBM hopes to help partners drive increased software-as-a-service
(SaaS) sales and arm them with the ability to provide customers with quick
access to IBM business solutions on its Smarter Commerce cloud portfolio.

The
initiative has IBM investing in skills training, technical support, development
resources and providing a greater pool of industry expertise to its partners
interested in selling IBM’s cloud. IBM says that improved support is necessary
to help shephard partners in an environment that has customers changing their
buying patterns due to trends in areas such as social networking and mobile
computing. For example, most recently partners have been faced with the
prospect of selling to non-traditional IT buyers, such as marketing officers
and procurement executives who don’t necessarily have a technology background
but are looking for specific cloud services to help them achieve business
goals.

"Smarter
Commerce represents a new playing field for IBM business partners and gives us
a huge opportunity to compete for commerce, online and off-line," said
Teresa Zobrist, CEO of Zobrist Consulting, a pilot participant.  "As
an authorized Smarter Commerce Business Partner, we can now address every
aspect of commerce from multi-channel marketing, merchandising, analytics,
storefront, warehousing, fulfillment, supply-chain to help our customers truly
optimize their business processes to be competitive in the global marketplace.
IBM is the only company that has the vision and the execution power for Smarter
Commerce. We are grateful to be an integral part of the strategy."

An
IBM market analysis printed in second quarter of 2011 showed that the market opportunity
for Smarter Commerce to be at $20 billion for software and growing by about 14
percent.