IBM Announces New Partner Programs and Initiatives
By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc. June 16, 2008
IBM announced new programs and incentives to help its business partners leverage opportunities in existing and emerging markets. The new programs represent IBM's commitment to supporting partners with the resources they need to be more competitive and deliver exceptional value to customers.
These programs and incentives include:
- Business Partner Skills Program for the New Enterprise Data Center - IBM will train and equip business partners to perform client assessments in critical enterprise data centers areas, including certifications in virtualization and consolidation, business resiliency, and green/energy efficiency. The program aligns with IBM’s Business Partner Innovation Centers. Partners who reach the highest specialty level will be eligible for marketing and sales benefits that could include funding for co-marketing activities, education, pre-sales assessments, pre-sales proposal development and technical assistance.
- Industry Solutions Reseller Initiative – This allows qualified business partners to provide certain IBM systems and storage technologies to integrated solution resellers in high-growth markets, including retail, next-generation networks, medical devices, health care, life sciences and digital video. Initially, IBM’s System x and storage products will be available.
- Integrated Product Export Program – IBM intends to help business partners that develop and integrate approved industry applications in one country to deploy those solutions to clients in different, approved countries. Under this program, IBM can authorize business partners to source required IBM products, integrate and test them locally, then export the total solution.
- Cross-Border Product Certification Program – This allows IBM business partners to leverage certification requirements needed to purchase and sell eligible IBM systems and storage hardware products and offerings across multiple countries and geographies. Other programs that require additional certifications remain unchanged.
- Blue Business Platform – As part of the Blue Business Platform effort, IBM will open its Global Innovation Centers to enable ISVs to standardize their solutions to the new Application Integration Toolkit. In addition, the company plans to launch over 250 Business Partner Innovation Centers, including eight in South Africa, Turkey, Ukraine, and other emerging markets. Finally, IBM will offer partners the opportunity to showcase their solutions through a new Global Application Marketplace, the first iteration of a future online marketplace aimed at the needs of smaller businesses. In conjunction with these new initiatives, IBM streamlined resources and the way they can be viewed on the PartnerWorld portal.
IBM helps business partners expand their global/industry reach.
Business partner relationships are among the most commonly cited and least understood issues in the IT industry. In part, this is due to the fact that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all partner relationship. Though most vendors create and follow partner strategies, flexibility is key to succeeding across various markets, industries and regions.
In general, there are three ways that vendors work with business partners:
1. Leading – By using their technological know-how and solutions to create commercial opportunities
2. Following – By leveraging partners’ knowledge or expertise to embrace new markets
3. Easing the way – By fine-tuning methodologies and requirements to make it easier for partners to pursue new strategies
The products, programs and initiatives announced at IBM’s Business Partner Leadership Council leverage these means toward a variety of ends. For example, the Business Partner Skills Program aims to strengthen partners’ positions in the datacenter assessment/deployment process for enterprise customers. This could help partners pursue opportunities in booming IT areas, including virtualization/consolidation, business resiliency and green/energy-efficient technology. But by helping partners find success with its enterprise clients, IBM should also strengthen its own New Enterprise Datacenter strategy.
Leading with its own solutions is only one of IBM’s partner strategies. Ever since the company formally abandoned application development in 1999, it has gained enormous benefits from leveraging its partners’ expertise in specific industries and regions. The new Industry Solutions Reseller Initiative intends to pursue this strategy in new directions, making it simpler for partners to provide IBM hardware solutions to integrated resellers focused on hot commercial markets, including retail, next-generation networks, medical devices, health care, life sciences and digital video. In turn, the initiative should help increase the value of IBM and its partners’ solutions among customers, ranging from emerging-market start-ups to larger companies looking for an edge.
The Integrated Product Export and Cross-Border Product Certification programs are both designed to make it easier for IBM partners trying to expand their businesses across multiple countries and geographies. Simplifying sourcing authorization and certification requirements may seem only distantly connected to the sophisticated IT world. But they are critical to easing the way for qualified resellers and application integrators to develop and deliver IBM-based solutions across new markets,geographies, and industries.
In a sense, IBM’s intends new Blue Business Platform to follow all three of these approaches to its own and partners’ benefit. The new Global Application Marketplace offers an example of how a vendor like IBM can use its technological and financial muscle to enhance or expand market opportunities. The plan to expand IBM’s network of Business Partner Innovation Centers shows the company is willing to follow the lead of partners to broaden efforts in new and emerging markets. IBM’s decision to open its Global Innovation Centers to application developers intends to help those partners leverage the company’s new Application Integration Toolkit to streamline new product development. Overall, we believe IBM’s new programs and initiatives qualify as examples of how astute vendors can aid themselves by broadening support of their dedicated business partners both at home and in new markets and regions. This way, IBM can help ensure both its partners’ success and the success of the company’s products and business straegies among clients, ranging from the smallest businesses to the largest enterprises. But the effect of these efforts is not entirely commercial. By proving that it is looking out for its partners’ interests today, IBM also paves the way for future collaborations and opportunities.