IBM Offers Partners New Incentives, Certification and Tech Advocate Program

By Steve Wexler

LAS VEGAS: The good news is that IBM's 50,000-plus North American software partners are doing better than most of their peers, and the future looks even brighter. The bad news is that Big Blue is pretty happy with its coverage, and while it plans to move more of its open-distribution partners -- primarily LotusNotes and Lombardi -- over to the ranks of its 5,000 authorized partners, it's not looking to significantly expand its numbers, Sandy Carter, vice president, IBM Software Group Channels, tells Channel Insider.

Carter, along with more than 900 business partners, is here for IBM's biggest-ever SOA (solutions-oriented architecture) and BPM (business process management) conference, Impact. In addition to announcing the acquisition of Cast Iron Systems, the company announced more than 30 products and a number of channel initiatives, including providing authorized partners with direct access to IBM's technical and industry leaders.

IBM estimates the SOA and BPM market is worth an estimated $60 billion annually, and the channel is integral to the IBM’s sales strategies to capture that market.
Last year partners accounted for 25 percent of WebSphere revenues, and for the first quarter of 2010, IBM reported its BPM and integration software portfolio grew by more than 20 percent. WebSphere grew 13 percent, while its integration software grew by more than 20 percent. ILOG, business rules management, grew by more than 30 percent.  

Carter briefed partners on IBM's evolution to an industry focus, including the move to industry authorizations in 2011, and also discussed new incentives like Software Value Incentive (SVI) Competitive Incentive that doubles the rewards for those ripping and replacing Oracle.

Top partners will now get direct access to IBM’s technology and industry gurus globally (IBM Technical and Industry Advocates). As part of the advocate initiative will line up the 5,000 authorized partners with IBM brand executives, industry experts, senior technical staff members, master inventors and other technical leaders. Carter says this initiative will help partners with industry-specific software architecture, performance, migrations, upgrades and configurations.

Plus IBM announced new social networking communities on PartnerWorld; industry framework validations for the banking industry; and incentives for selling to government.

IBM also used Impact as the venue for the official rollout of its IT cloud computing certification program. More than 100 partners took part in cloud education sessions at Impact this week.

IBM has also added a social networking component to its PartnerWorld Communities.  Partners will be able to access industry-focused social networking groups online through PartnerWorld Communities.

The IBM Banking Industry Framework is a validation program that gives partners formal and objective criteria to test their solutions. Carter says can mean a streamlined validation program for partners, and faster time to market, reduced risk, and improved ROI for their customers. And the Value Advantage Plus for Government Sales enables authorized partners to earn rebates for value-added sales to governments.  

The other key development is the evolution to an industry, rather than technology or product, focus. IBM has ramped up its focus on industry verticals in large part because that's what customers are demanding, says Carter. In January, IBM announced availability of more than 130 industry training sessions online and in local markets worldwide.

"We’re preparing for that next wave of what we see happening in the market, our customers looking for partners who really understand their business." She says the top two customer priorities are first, finding a partner who understands their business processes, and second, one who can offer different deployment options.

"We call it 'bearhugging' the customer."


This article was originally published on 2010-05-05