IBM celebrates 50 years of business in New Zealand this week, giving Big Blue and its partners an occasion to reflect on the role the company has played in the channel.
The company’s longest serving partner in the country is the Datec Group, which began selling IBM electronic typewriters in the late 1970s before graduating to PCs in 1982.
During their 25-year relationship, IBM has been a very good partner, says Datec CEO Michael Ah Koy.
“Overall they have been a fantastic partner,” he says.
IBM began focusing more on the channel when it entered the desktop computing business, says Ah Koy.
“They started to really promote the channel and put in place innovative channel programmes and internal infrastructures to support the channel,” he says.
Datec is based in Auckland, but represents IBM in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Tonga and Samoa, where IBM’s strong brand has helped the company grow its business, says Ah Koy.
“IBM is such a powerful brand. It speaks of security and has legacy qualities. This rings true with technology decision-makers in the islands,” he says.
IBM has also helped Datec create marketing campaigns specifically for the Pacific Islands.
“They have provided very good product support, education and technical training, which we have been able to take back to the islands, which is not an easy thing to do,” says Ah Koy.
Today Datec buys PCs from Lenovo, but still deals in IBM server and storage products, and works with the vendor’s services division to offer bundled services.
Ah Koy is confident Datec’s relationship with IBM will continue to flourish, as IBM needs a strong channel partner to cover the Pacific Islands.
Tim Wong, who was New Zealand channel manger in the early 1990s and is now IBM’s vice president of business partner sales for Asia-Pacific, says while the fundamentals of IBM’s channel strategy has remained the same, its approach is now far more sophisticated.
“We have always been focused on delivering consistent and predicable programmes for our business partners aimed at ensuring their success,” says Wong.
In the early days these programmes were generic, but are now specifically tailored to the unique business models of IBM’s different types of partner.
The demographics of IBM’s channel have also evolved in the past ten to 15 years, says Wong. Before it dealt mainly with independent hardware dealers and value-added resellers, but now it works with a range of partners, including distributors, independent software vendors, systems integrators and, increasingly, providers of its consulting services.
In the mid-1980s, the channel contributed only 10% of IBM’s revenue, but today this figure is over a third globally, and continues to grow, says Wong.
“This tells you how important the channel is to IBM,” he says. “Partners are part of IBM and that will never change.”