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For years, solution providers have complained about the complexity of trying to first build a solution and then craft a deal across all the different business units of IBM.

For many small solution providers focused on the small and midsize business market, all that complexity meant that the cost of doing business with IBM was just too high.

Well, now that IBM Chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano has publicly stated that the SMB market will be IBM’s single largest customer segment in the next five years, it looks like IBM is finally making some concrete moves to reduce the complexity for SMB-focused solution providers doing business with IBM.

To that end, IBM is now taking the SMB channel segment of its STG (Systems and Technology Group), along with the SMB-focused group of its Global Technology Services unit, and merging it with the overall IBM SMB channel group to create one SMB-focused channel organization within IBM’s STG business unit.

Pointer Palmisano: SMB Will Be IBM’s Largest Market in Five Years. Click here to read more.

Beyond that, IBM’s regional system sales managers will have responsibility for both direct and indirect sales within their regions, which should help reduce channel conflict between IBM sales people and the channel. To make this work, certain higher-end iSeries products will be reclassified as enterprise class products while the rest of IBM’s portfolio of products will be managed under the guidance of Marc Dupaquier, the new general manager of the SMB Business Systems Unit that will have responsibility for both marketing and SMB product development. Ross Mauri will be the new head of a new enterprise-focused Power Series business unit that will have responsibility for all iSeries and pSeries products based on IBM’s Power processors.

Bob Samson, vice president of worldwide sales for STG, said that while software products for the SMB market will remain under the domain of IBM’s Software and Services Group, he expects the new structure to be easier for channel partners to construct SMB solutions using the entire portfolio of IBM products by using the new SMB Business Systems Unit as their primary SMB interface with IBM.

It will probably take some time before IBM partners can adjust to this new model and perhaps even longer for non-IBM partners to see the difference in how IBM goes to market. But it’s probably fair to say that any step in the direction of simplification is a good thing when it comes to IBM.

As Alex Goh, vice president of channel marketing and strategy of IBM channel for STG put it, the whole point of the exercise is to “energize the point of sale.” When it comes to the SMB market, the channel is the point of the sale making some strides to actually lower the cost of doing business with IBM in a way that has real potential to lower the cost of sales for solution providers, which ultimately means more profitability for IBM partners.