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IBM Canada’s channel partners are driving innovation, says director of business partners in Canada

Channel StrategyCloudInfrastructureManaged Services & OutsourcingSoftwareIBM

While traditional resellers of IBM Corp. products are still an important part of Big Blue’s continued growth, a significant emphasis is now placed on what Joe Sehl calls a “broad ecosystem” that is, in addition to using IBM technology, driving innovation in the country.

“Now we’re looking at resellers in very broad categories,” the director of business partners in Canada for IBM told CDN. “From reselling IBM technology, to embedding IBM technology, and to working with other partners that use IBM. They’re naturally responding to the marketplace, which is changing the way it consumes technology.”

Certain customers, specifically small-businesses and startups, can now pay-as-they go for cloud and blockchain-based services and create online accounts without the major need for major vendor involvement. But IBM hasn’t forgotten about its partners, of which they have hundreds in Canada, according to Sehl, and the company is making sure they have a front-row seat to the innovation economy in Canada.

“IBM Canada has been in Canada for 100 years, we’re really embedded in the Canadian scene,” says Sehl. “We’ve really been trying to drive innovation with the government, with other commercial enterprises, in Canada. And that is enabled by other partners and other tech companies.”

Joe Sehl, director of business partners in Canada for IBM. Photo submitted.

It’s no surprise that most of the innovation in Canada is centred around AI, cloud and blockchain, technologies that were emphasized at Think 2018. But how that technology is being distributed is becoming much less linear. As more companies adopt IBM technology, such as Watson, so do their own partners, and this trickle down effect is how the aforementioned ecosystem grows, says Sehl. While they fly under the radar compared to other IBM Canada partners, Cindy Taylor, director, strategic alliances for KPMG in Canada, says they’re one of IBM Canada’s top partners and rely on them frequently.

“We focus on really working with them around business transformation issues where we bring the subject matter expertise around things like trade, tax and regulatory, and they’re bringing in some of their skills around technology,” explains Taylor. “IBM technology is embedded in where we are heading with technology as well.”

Yvon Audette, partner and national leader, IT advisory for KPMG in Canada, agrees.

“Watson appears as the key AI component around many of our solutions,” he says, while also citing cloud and blockchain, technologies that IBM has been able to refine and help partners apply in the business world. “We’re very careful to bring enterprise-class solutions to market and leverage innovative solutions appropriately, especially when you’re dealing with privacy related matters, transactional related matters.”

But IBM is supporting Canada’s technology creators as well, says Sehl.

“We do a lot of work with startups and scaleups,” he says.

LaMar Jenkins, a member of IBM Security at CDW Corp., says he’s noticed this shift in focus to startups and smaller businesses in the United States.

“I think they have done a tremendous job with the channel,” he told CDN on the Think 2018 show floor in Vegas. “They’ve moved away from dealing with mainly enterprises and are now going into the smaller companies … they’re also sticking with this plan and letting it play out.”