IBM has redesigned its PartnerWorld program, introducing three specialised tracks featuring Build, Service and Sell.
In an exclusive interview with ARN, IBM global partner ecosystem general manager David La Rose described it as the most significant overhaul to the partner program in the past decade.
La Rose hinted at a significant upgrade to the PartnerWorld program in December to align with its shift in pushing more than 1000 direct enterprise clients to the channel - highlighting it as one of the biggest assets that partners want — access to IBM’s incumbency.
The new Build specialised track is aimed at partners that want to build on the cloud platform — whether it be IBM Cloud or other clouds.
The new Service track is designated for partners that want to build service offerings around both IBM Cloud and the hybrid cloud space. The Sell track, which is already in place, currently caters to the existing model for the IBM reseller base.
All partners can participate in these tracks, no matter where they reside within the PartnerWorld program, with IBM also throwing a lot of support and incentives along their journey.
Big Blue will also be enabling innovation through competencies aligned to the three tracks, to help partners deepen their technical expertise.
Some of the new competencies are centred on the banking and financial sector; industrial and manufacturing; regulated workloads (Build) and application modernisation (Service).
On top of this, IBM is also simplifying its cloud and cognitive software incentive structure and has also launched new Partner Packages that bundle cloud and cognitive benefits so partners can learn, develop and test solutions on the IBM Cloud.
La Rose said new support offerings will come into play to help partners “effectively transform their business through skills, services and the unique IP they offer”.
The partner support packs are split across Entry, Advanced, Premier and Enterprise, and will feature credits and access to technical support, and for a limited time, the Entry level pack will be offered for free.
“The mix of our partner ecosystem will shift over the next 12 to 18 months,” he said. “You’ll see different types of partners expand their relationship with IBM, and then at the other end, some of the traditional resell-only partners will figure out how to embrace the new world of platforms and consumption, or inevitably, stay where they are and become less relevant to IBM.
"It’s really important for us to take those partners and show them a journey of how they can move through this. There will be winners and losers. This will also give us an ability to attract a new set of partners that we don’t already engage with.”
The new incentive structure will reward business partners for delivering client value in cloud and systems, including companies that invest in the development of bespoke solutions and IP, demonstrate deep skills and industry expertise, and integrate critical IBM software and hardware offerings as part of their solutions.
“Fundamentally what we’re doing is aligning partner incentives with our go-to-market, to enable a greater collaboration with our partners,” La Rose said. “We’ll reward them for continuing to invest in skills in both sales and client engagement, where they differentiate themselves, and we’re also incentivising them to integrate our Cloud Paks into their solutions.
“There’s a heavy emphasis on promoting and incentivising the partners on [IBM] Cloud Paks, and going after markets where we don’t have a very high penetration such as the commercial space.”
IBM has six Cloud Paks in the market at the moment, centred on security, integration, data, application, automation, and multi-cloud manager. Hybrid cloud is the prime opportunity for both IBM and its partner ecosystem, La Rose said.
“We’ve spent the last nine months really redefining the software portfolio into a containerised version based on the Kubernetes standard, and with OpenShift as the cloud standard,” he said.
“Our software is now really well positioned and we’ve got great feedback from analysts, and with clients, we’ve got great penetration in the large, enterprise accounts in our Cloud Pack portfolio. We see the opportunity now in the mid-size and commercial parts of our client base, which should be fairly ripe for our partners to go after.”
The latest partner initiatives follow on from a number of offers and resources IBM has announced to help partners grow, build new skills, embrace cloud and AI, and go to market, including extending the PartnerWorld revalidation grace period.
The company's initiatives also include expanding zero per cent financing offerings for new Power, Storage and Software licenses; offering free Cloud and AI SaaS resources for 90 days; reimbursing 100 per cent of approved digital co-marketing activities; and launching a free My Digital Marketing platform to help partners shift to digital marketing.