IBM New Zealand is claiming momentum in its channel-led push to win a chunk of the opportunities presented by hybrid cloud.
New country leader David Hook said the channel was important for IBM to be successful and to achieve scale, to grow its brand and its capabilities.
In that cause IBM had been working to build trust with partners and recently achieved a net promoter score increase of 68 per cent in the channel.
That could mark a turnaround for a company born as a vendor that traditionally liked to go to market directly outside of high volume product categories.
Embracing and supporting partners is a key part of the company's new global strategy focusing on the opportunities presented by its US$34 billion acquisition of Red Hat to become a hybrid cloud provider, as well as other core strengths in data and artificial intelligence.
Open standards breed ecosystems
The behemoth formerly known as "Big Blue" now sees itself as an open standards platform company. To succeed in that mode required it to build a strong ecosystem.
Hook joined IBM NZ as head of sales in the company's global markets division in 2019 before winning promotion to country leader last November following the retirement of Mike Smith.
He brought a wealth of channel knowledge having formerly worked in distribution with Westcon-Comstor and within the partner community at Fujitsu.
Globally, the company talks about hybrid cloud as a US$1 trillion opportunity.
"Customers all talk about heading to cloud but will still have infrastructure services on premises that they are going to move to public cloud, but they will be in hybrid for some time," Hook said.
With Red Hat, IBM brings leadership in cloud orchestration and automation and offers customers a choice of hyperscale cloud, private cloud, on premises or a combination of all three.
"The benefit is the opportunity for the channel to become much closer to IBM," Hook said.
"Part of that is to simplify how we engage with the channel and not just the existing or traditional channel – a much bigger ecosystem."
Different partnership modes
Ecosystem partners might build a service, sell IBM products and services or, as in the case of the large consultancies, influence decision-making
That activity covers a traditional sell as joint go-to-market, often in pursuit of new revenue streams.
One example of a build partner is Auckland-based Straker Translations which has built its platform on IBM and also now counts the company as a customer.
Specialist partners, including CDP and Fusion5 locally have invested in a certain IBM capabilities to develop their go-to-market strategies while AI specialist Spacetime uses Watson AI embedded within its platforms.
Right now, IBM's local channels include Ingram Micro for distribution and traditional resellers including Datacom, Spark and NTT as well as other global partners.
Hook said while a lot of work had been done in preparation for executing the new strategy, the momentum would come over the next couple of years with the help of ecosystem partners and an aligned, "ecosystem first" go to market model.
The best of Red Hat
The Red Hat relationship was now very close, Hook said. There was a lot more joint engagement alongside partners of end clients. A number of Red Hat partners were now also IBM partners and vice versa.
"There is some crossover at times on technology, but soon it will be the best of Red Hat in IBM and the best of IBM in Red Hat," Hook said.
"Customers want to engage with the hyperscalers and private cloud – customers want choice. We provide a platform to deliver that. They are not locked into a particular strategy.
"Yes, public cloud is important to us but actually it's the hybrid part of public cloud that is the key priority."
Meanwhile, customers are also choosing IBM's public cloud.
"Where we are seeing some real success is in the areas where we are differentiating ourselves," Hook said.
"We have focuses for instance on financial services cloud or telco cloud. IBM has a rich history of strong support for financial services, a highly regulated industry."
IBM's industry vertical offerings deliver complex industry compliance as a foundation to, for example, connect financial services providers into independent software vendors.
"The partner community to me the most important thing because that’s where we are going to get scale and growth," Hook said.
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