Bill Bennett

Bill Bennett

Prize winners were not the only people to walk away from this year’s IBM Business Partner Awards feeling rewarded. I left the event with a good feeling about the state of New Zealand’s reseller community, a pride in our nation’s capacity for innovation and a new respect for the business sophistication of our industry.

As you’d expect, the winners were all impressive. You can read more about them elsewhere in this supplement. What came as something of a surprise was the sheer depth of talent on display. The quality of this year’s entries was very high across the board. Finding the cream wasn’t simple.

In the judging we were looking for a number of qualities: a strong customer focus; technical expertise; an ability to partner; specialist market knowledge; implementation capability and innovation. Every single entry could tick five of the six criteria and the majority had them all. So to pick winners we dug deeper.

During the judging of this year’s IBM Business Partner Awards I interviewed the clients for each of the entries. In part, we wanted to know what customers felt about their projects and whether they were delivering the promised benefits.

It’s also useful to have customers describe, in their own words, their business relationship with the IBM business partner. Their take on the relationship plays an important part in the judging.

In every single interview the customer was positive about their supplier. Actually that’s putting it mildly. Collectively they sang the praises of their suppliers. Many were beyond happy, they were bordering on ecstatic. A large percentage of customers were, in effect, willing to act as salespeople for their suppliers. This is marketing nirvana.

My notebook is packed with words like ‘fantastic’ and ‘fabulous’. A couple of customers told me their projects had saved their businesses. Others talked of having added capacity to expand their business or solve long-term headaches. At the awards event we displayed some of the customer comments on screen while the winners picked up their plaques.

The obvious conclusion to draw here is that IBM’s business partners get very close to their customers. They understand their businesses and know how to meet their needs.

Of course, the close relationship between specialist local technology providers and customers is the very reason the information technology channel came to being in the first place and why the channel model is so successful.

Forming partnerships is a key strategy for leading technology companies like IBM. The company’s investment in a programme like the IBM Business Partner Awards underlines this.

Here’s hoping we get the chance to recognise even more achievement in 2008.

Bill Bennett, associate publisher New Zealand Reseller News.

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