For as long as I can remember, two of the major issues VARs have always complained about have been how they can get closer to and be more integrated into the decision-making process of their vendor partners, and how they can leverage the name brand of those partners to penetrate new end-user accounts.

IBM is directly addressing these issues with the official formation of the Data Governance Council. The mission of the Data Governance Council is to help create technologies and policies to protect corporate and personal data both inside and between organizations, according to Stuart McIrvine, director of IBM’s Corporate Security Strategy.

“Companies need to have a focus on their information. It is so critical for the streamlined operations of a company. There are all different types of information that has to be maintained in fundamentally different ways for different reasons,” such as financial information, customer information for CRM, general company information, and product and brand awareness information, he said.

“We are getting a lot of feedback from the market and from customers that we need to take a better approach on how we govern data so we can do it in a more streamlined manner and eliminate a lot of vulnerabilities,” McIrvine said. Part of the council’s mission is to identify those pieces of information that need to be considered in order to comprehensively govern data in organizations, he said.

And although the initiative is somewhat self-serving because IBM is looking to evolve its own corporate data governance plan as part of its security development and overall On Demand strategy, it does create ample opportunities for VARs who do participate.

IBM business partners, including VARs, that join the council will get an early look at the vendor’s technology blueprints and then have the opportunity to give valued feedback, according to McIrvine. “We want to deliver the right solutions that meet their requirements,” he said.

The way I see it, this is an ideal opportunity for the channel to help drive the requirements for IBM’s development strategy. This is a way VARs can get in on the ground floor of the development cycle and add their expertise and insight, something the channel has always clamored about.

This will also be extremely helpful feedback for the vertical industries many VARs represent and have solid expertise in. No one knows what the IT and data management needs are for specific verticals better than VARs.

“There is a tremendous opportunity [for the channel] to work more closely with us, to influence the development of our solutions,” McIrvine said.

Further, the formation of the council will give channel partners access and valuable exposure to some major corporations. This is always beneficial for VARs.

Already, Data Governance Council members include an impressive mix of top companies and solution providers, including ABN Amro, ActivCard, Airmagnet, American Express, Bank of Montreal, Bell Canada, Blueworld, Cadence Design, Centerprise, City of New York FISA and DoE, Consultrex, Corticon Technologies, Danske Bank, Deutsche Bank, Fidelis Security, Great American Insurance, Huntington Bank, Key Bank, Merrill Lynch, Mitratech, Navigant Consulting, Novartis, Government of Nassau County, Ping Identity, TIAA-CREF, TeliaSonara, North Carolina State University, Northwestern Mutual, Nova Southeastern University, the United Nations Development Program, SPS and the World Bank.

“[Business partners] will be working closely with our strategy team and interact with our development team and get exposure with different customers,” McIrvine said. “By the nature of that, we are likely to pull them into engagements with us,” he said.

What more can a solution provider ask for?

Elliot Markowitz is editor at large at The Channel Insider. He is also editorial director of Ziff Davis Media eSeminars. He can be reached at