An independent study of Vendor ISV programs put IBM’s Partner World Industry Networks atop a list of the top 10, besting rival Microsoft and others in metrics measuring technical, sales and marketing enablement.

IBM scored highest in all categories and overall, pulling a 75 out of 100 in the study by research firm IDC, in Framingham, Mass., edging Microsoft, at 71, and SAP, at 70.

The report, “Worldwide Top 10 ISV Partner Programs 2006 Vendor Analysis: Enabling ISV Partners for Success,” first surveyed ISVs to develop metrics for five program categories and 11 subcomponents, weighted and then applied to the programs of 10 vendors selected.

Among the study’s findings, ISVs reported that technical resources are the single most important aspect of a vendor program, followed closely by marketing and sales enablement. Rewards, incentives and other frills are considered superfluous.

IBM’s program scored a 78 for technical enablement, 67 for sales resources and 79 for marketing resources, according to IDC.

Microsoft scored 67, 67 and 79 for the same categories, the report said. SAP scored 67, 67 and 77.

The report praised Microsoft’s marketing resources, including partner Marketing Center and Campaign Builder as the equal of IBM’s, led by a Demand generation Toolkit and co-advertising. But in technical support, most important, according to surveyed ISVs, IBM bested the bunch.

“You need to have both,” said Laura Naylor, vice president of marketing at CommercialWare, an IBM and Microsoft ISV partner building retail software solution.

“You need to get it to market, but the solution set needs to do what you’re saying it’s going to do. Otherwise your cycle of credibility ends right there. You’re selling, but by the time you’re implementing, you fall down when you can’t provide and it won’t replicate.”

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Naylor, also a Microsoft Gold certified partner, praised IBM’s willingness to work with other vendors.

“You may not be using DB2, you might be on SQL server, but that’s OK to them if you’re working with Websphere. So many others are all or nothing.”

Scores by Technical, Sales, Marketing and Overall:

  • IBM –78, 67, 79, 75
  • Microsoft – 67,67,79, 71
  • SAP – 67, 67, 77, 70
  • Oracle – 67, 67, 67, 67
  • Hewlett-Packard – 62, 48, 67, 60
  • Novell – 50, 62, 67, 58
  • Progress Software – 51, 52, 67, 56
  • BEA Systems – 51, 48, 54, 51
  • Intel – 50, 33, 44, 44
  • Symantec – 45, 33, 44, 41

    The IBM program delivers, largely because it is verticalized, said Naylor, an ISV in IBM’s PWIN Retail group. IBM segments its ISV partners into 15 subcategories based on the industry they serve, allowing technical support, marketing and sales resources to be rolled off the shelf and tailored to a partner’s industry.

    “It allows IBM to package things like testing and pricing in a way that is aligned appropriately to what I need, and the way I go to market,” Naylor said. “The solution set and stack I use is different than the one someone in their financial services group is using. They can speak to the price points and buying cycles in my industry. And put me in touch with publications and trade shows reaching my market.”

    Naylor said IBM’s history as a services company likely prodded it to align vertically.