IBM’s strategy for its Partner Program, around the world and in the ANZ region, focuses on the SMB market. “The reason for this,” said Andrew Baker, IBM’s director for global business partners for ANZ, “is that SMB is the largest and fastest growing market in IT. The SMB market,” clarified Baker, “represents great opportunity, and is best served by our business partners. Surveys tell us that our SMB customers have a higher satisfaction rate when they go through our business partners.”
IBM has worked very hard to build a run rate business around volume products like Intel and System X. In April of this year, the System X products shifted entirely through distribution, which has given partners a great deal more opportunity through business server and storage solutions.
At the recent IBM Business Partners’ Summit, IBM outlined its strategy to provide a stronger route to market through the channel. “We see our partners as the route to market, which inspires confidence,” said Baker.
For 2007, IBM’s focus will be on enablement and training, and the company has put a series of initiatives in place to meet its goals. The company hopes to enable partners to leverage the investments that IBM makes globally.* The recent BP Summit gave IBM the opportunity to connect with partners and take them through offerings and strategies, as they networked with one another.
* The Marketing Cafe Series is designed to ensure that each of the marketing managers for each business partner are aware of IBM’s plans for the following quarter. They can then leverage the information and support in any way they see appropriate.
* IBM’s Channel Academy is a quarterly event dedicated to skills. The IT industry is outpacing the economy 2 to 1 in ANZ, according to Baker, but skills are not. “We want to upskill our partners to help them be more successful. We offer sales, marketing and technical training at no charge.”
* Express Advantage is the next generation of IBM Express, originally launched in 2002 at the IBM Partner World Conference. Express Advantage is designed to certify a combination of a partner’s solution and IBM’s solution, and to help the partner take that combined solution to market, in an effort to ensure that IBM has strategies and solutions geared to, and priced for, the mid-market.
* Attractive incentive programs, such as Know Your IBM for sales people, have been upgraded to provide the ultimate level of support and benefit.
Raymond Skoglund, IBM’s NZ channel manager, sees a great deal of opportunity for IBM’s Business Partners. “The SMB and mid-market is a key focus for us, as it is a growing sector,” Skoglund stated. “The public sector is also a key area of growth that we can reach with our partners in New Zealand. We want to help our partners differentiate themselves in this space.”
In the public sector, Business Partners can take part in IBM’s Project Green. IBM has invested significant time and money to provide solutions that will help customers reduce their carbon footprint. Business Partners can be certified as “Green Partners” which is a key differentiator, and allows them to take a wider portfolio to market. “The fact is, companies are looking for help with the contribution they can make in resolving carbon issues. Our Business Partners can provide that help,” clarified Skoglund.
IBM has a long-term focus, commitment and investment around SMB service via the channel. Co-marketing programs are in place, and in fact, over NZ $1 million has been made available partners for co-marketing purposes this year.
“We want to ensure our partners are profitable; enablement is key. Our partners are continually addressing complex business issues, and we need to make sure they have the right skills, and are certified and trained. Our Business Partners are really an extension of the IBM team, and they act on our behalf,” said Skoglund.
IBM Business Partners have access to Partner World, a password protected website designed to provide an enormous amount of learning and information.