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I’ve tracked IBM for a good number of years now. I’ve listened to its media-trained, mogul-style executives in their dark blue suits (of course) spout on to me about everything from Tequila to WebSphere, from coffee to finance and from Lotus to yoga. But it is only a rare occasion that I have ever heard IBM listen.

And yet when talking to IBM about its merger of the ISS and IBM channel, it seems listening is exactly what IBM has been doing. It was refreshing to hear the vendor acknowledge what we all know; merging two companies, and especially two channel partner organizations, is tough. And you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Not startling in general terms, but to hear IBM admit it, well, that was a new, more open side to IBM I saw.

In the transition of bringing ISS VARs into the IBM channel, the vendor is bound to play hardball with some contracts; after all, business is business. But to hear IBM admitting its difficulties, nay even its failings (one executive told me some VARs “didn’t like the formal structure” of IBM, and so had not joined the IBM channel) is astounding for a firm that would have previously simply glossed over any partners who had not joined its ranks, post merger. The arrogance that it became famous for was diluted, and in its place was a more relaxed, open, and what seemed to be channel-friendly IBM.