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IBM will launch a Partner Profitability Tool the week of March 26 designed to put a rough number and date on the ROI of partnering with Big Blue.

While a rough, and uncertain, two-year estimate, it marks the first time a partner has been able to attach a number to the “‘Is it worth it?’ question,” said Richard Beaudin, IBM Software Group’s Worldwide Systems Integrators Alliances Channel Marketing manager.

Partners use three drop-down modules to choose an IBM product line, their level of in-house experience and current assets, and the tool returns a summary of investment in terms of personnel (i.e. two techs at $150,000 annually) in years one and two and gross sales revenue and margin and services sales and margin for the period, plus an estimated “break-even” date and maximum cash out. Partners can even explore what IBM financing might do to boost deal sizes.

“Any good business partner wants that info before they jump in,” Beaudin said.

Beaudin said he expects the tool to help IBM swell its partner roster, both with new partners and current partners opening new practices. It should be most beneficial to smaller VARs and ISVs that are lacking the internal analysts to do this legwork, and would be a boon to IBM’s effort to boost SMB partner ranks, he added.

Current partners might use it to explore which technology could be the smartest to add and which might be a mistake.

The English version rolls out this week to IBM’s U.S. field teams and IBM distributors, but international versions, with currency calculations and different salary estimates, will follow, Beaudin said.

The application is also customizable to account for salary variations in your locale or your own cyclical business trends, even allowing customers to adjust for a more ambitious or more conservative ramp-up.