A picture of two men talking at a table, the IBM PartnerWorld program offers channel partners globally the chance to collaborate and service clients with IBM technologies.

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Are you interested in being a channel partner with IBM? The IBM PartnerWorld program provides partners with industry-leading technology solutions and tools for developing a marketing and sales strategy.

From Fortran to the barcodes and artificial intelligence to recent proof of the world’s smallest transistor, IBM’s been a world leader in innovative technology for more than a century. Today Big Blue offers a complete technology stack and a well-established partner program for interested organizations. Some of IBM’s cutting-edge technology may not be a fit for many channel partners, but there’s plenty of other technology to power MSPs, VARs and more.

IBM has one of the longest-running channel programs. Starting in 1980 with the development and release of the IBM PC, the company recognized the mutual benefits of partnering with organizations like Intel and AMD. Over the years, the program has gone through several changes to meet evolving business needs, such as the hybrid cloud and AI emergence.

This article explores the IBM partner program requirements, tiers and benefits, financial incentives, training, and resources to maximize collaboration as an IBM channel partner.

Also Read: Think 2021: IBM Looks to Evolve Digital Transformation Processes

IBM partner requirements

Prospective partners interested in joining the IBM PartnerWorld program join by application and review. After registering, vendors complete their profile and pick a track and consider the logistics and potential benefits of collaborating with IBM’s portfolio of solutions.

From there, organizations can sign a contract to resell or embed IBM solutions or purchase an IBM Partner Package, and the channel partnership begins. With sales success, certifications, and competencies, partners can increase their level of benefits over time.

To participate in the reseller incentive programs, partners must:

  • Be an approved member at any IBM PartnerWorld level
  • Sign a Business Partner Agreement (BPA)
  • Select a preferred value-added distributor
  • Receive authorization to resell the solution

Partner application

To get started, organization leaders can navigate to the IBM PartnerWorld registration portal. Users will be asked to submit their email, first and last name, password, and country of residence.

A screenshot of the IBM PartnerWorld registration webpage for their channel partner program.

Also Read: How IBM Aims to Simplify Partnering

After verifying an email address, users will have two options for step two: 1. Register your company as an IBM Partner, or 2. Join as an employee of a registered company.

A screenshot of the two options upon registering users have – registering a company or an existing organization.

For users registering an account with an existing IBM partner, the user needs the applicable access code. For registering a business, the registrant will need the legal name of the company, the commercial name, address, phone number, website, and tax ID.

With an IBMid, new registrants can explore their options for a potential channel partnership. Off the bat, users can filter the IBM catalog to find the solution best suited to their needs. In total, between software, hardware, service, and application solutions, there are over 700 to choose from, with 115 free trials. For specific technology needs, we break down what IBM offers.

A pie chart breaking down the technology offerings from IBM for channel partners.
Designed by Sam Ingalls. © Channel Insider 2021.

Partner tiers

  • Entry: build and service partners new to IBM offerings
  • Advanced: add sell partners that require learning, development, and test environments
  • Premier: add more cloud credits and education benefits
  • Enterprise: exclusive partners with total IBM Business Partner Benefits

Add-On: Booster Packs

After the cost of the Partner Package, IBM also offers “Booster Packs” for partners wanting to scale their education and cloud credits quickly. 

Booster PackBenefitDescription
Certification10 certification test vouchersMust purchase Partner Package
Cloud credit10,000 IBM Cloud CreditsFor Entry, Advanced, Premier
Enterprise Cloud credit165,000 IBM Cloud CreditsFor Enterprise

Tier Features

All four packages give organizations a handful of valuable features. The IBM software access catalog, on-premises or SaaS demos, and technical expert consultants help organizations evaluate whether their product development cycle fits with IBM’s tools and environment. Starting with Cloud Lite, partners can see how building products and services in the IBM Public Cloud works. With education reimbursement and certification vouchers, partners can develop their technical prowess without much expense. Lastly, IBM offers pre-sale and pre-deployment support to ensure partners deploy solutions without issue.

Sell, build or service?

In May 2020, IBM announced it would be adjusting the business partner program to offer two more tracks in addition to the existing Sell track. The addition of Build and Service offers flexibility to prospective collaborators who are more interested in the product development synergy of the partnership than the marketing potential. Partner tracks currently stand as:

  • Build: partners building off or using IBM technology for product solutions
  • Service: partners crafting value-added services
  • Sell: partners directly sourcing IBM products and services to their clients

For Build and Service tracks, partners choose from IBM’s catalog of solutions to develop a value-added product or service. The Sell track aims to serve partners who aren’t actively developing solutions. Instead, these organizations partner with Big Blue to provide IBM solutions to their existing customers.

Also Read: IBM Cloud Identity Offers Identity & Access Management Tools

Partner financial incentives and financing

The IBM Business Partner Ecosystem, dubbed IPE, includes numerous incentives and promotions for partners looking to maximize profit. With the IBM Global Financing division, IBM also can evaluate credit and serve clients’ commercial financing needs. IBM Credit’s abilities include offering payment plans and leases, working capital solutions, and IBM-certified pre-owned components configurable for reuse.

Other perks include incentives for software, systems, the IBM Cloud, and the IBM partner marketplace. Software incentives include earning on-premise new license software, subscription, support, and renewing IBM-hosted SaaS offerings. Using the Value Seller, partners can unlock additional discounts on orders. Obtaining the Systems competency means quarterly rebates and access to the Business Development Fund. Partners can earn up to 20% for the IBM partner marketplace when reselling through a cloud marketplace.

Partner training

IBM knows technical proficiency, skills, and sales success are critical to a channel partner’s bottom line – and to IBM’s success. With the Across Build and Service tracks, IBM offers 17 solution competencies, including industry-specific opportunities for banking and financial services and industrial and manufacturing verticals. Other competencies include:

  • VMware Workload Migration
  • Application Modernization
  • AI-Powered Automation for IT Ops
  • Accelerate the Journey to AI
  • Zero Trust Security

For Sell, IBM has over 25 competencies to choose from in business segments for AI, business operations, cloud, cybersecurity, and systems. A few marketable options include DevOps, Hybrid Data Competency, Threat Management, and IBM Z or LinuxOne.

Also Read: IBM Bets Big on Cloud for the Public Sector

Benefits of Completing Competencies

The more versed a vendor is in the technology they offer, the better chance they have to make sales and develop relationships. To help achieve that goal, IBM provides a few different benefits for obtaining competencies or certifications.

Proactive partners can receive priority for technical validation by an IBM distinguished engineer, earn the IBM Business Partner mark to let customers know, and get featured on IBM PartnerWorld and IBM’s success stories. IBM also has a cloud skills curriculum, education vouchers, and over 16,000 distributed software solutions to explore. With education vouchers, partners get a 50% discount on IBM certification tests and select IBM events.

Joint marketing

IBM offers a handful of tools to help partners reach their goals. Through co-marketing, vendors can take advantage of IBM financing and drive demand and revenue for solutions. IBM’s My Digital Marketing benefit offers various marketing tools from web content syndication to social media automation. Seismic provides a sales enablement platform for closing deals, while the Red Hat Marketplace gives partners a window to buy and deploy container-based software across clouds.

Also Read: IBM Offers Its Take on IoT Opportunities for Partners

Global Solution Directory and Partner Marks

Through the IBM Business Partner Directory, any organization globally can find an IBM channel partner. As a leading solutions provider, millions use IBM’s network to discover their needs. Not just visible in IBM’s Global Solution Directory, partners can also earn their IBM Business Partner Marks to show the rest of the world by achieving competencies. With the value of IBM’s brand, indicating existing and prospective clients the collaboration taking place is a plus.

Big Blue Edge

IBM’s track record of innovative technology is its greatest asset as a channel partner. IBM has a complete technology stack offering from high-performance computing and server power to industry-leading QRadar SIEM and hybrid infrastructure consulting. In a class of their own, IBM’s current strategic partners are Adobe, Apple, Cisco, Salesforce, and SAP.

For 28 straight years, IBM’s been a leader in patent technology, including a record 9,130 U.S. patents for IBM inventors in 2020. With their research teams constantly pushing the boundaries of science and an established international network, it’s easy to see why IBM is an attractive channel partner to many.