IBM expands channel program for Watson

LAS VEGAS – As the calendar turned from 2013 into 2014 IBM officially made Watson a commerical viable business opportunity by introducing the Watson Group, a new business unit formed to commercialize cloud-enabled cognitive computing.

Fast track a year and IBM announced a new channel strategy for the Watson Group at its 2015 Partnerworld Leadership Conference that will see the channel offered two new channel programs. Since the launch of the Watson Group, 900 channel partners worldwide have started developing and selling Watson-based solutions mainly to address big data market challenges and Big Blue expects to attract more solution providers with the launch of these new programs.

Steve Gold, the vice president of the IBM Watson Group, told CDN that the two programs for solution providers are aimed to find out if resellers can sell the Watson technology into the marketplace and represent IBM’s interests. As an example, business partners are encouraged to offer Watson Explorer, which enables organizations to take information from many sources and get a 360 degree view of the data in natural language.

Watson Explorer combines data exploration and content analytics capabilities to offer customers a bridge between cloud-based services and on premise proprietary solutions.

Gold believes this can be a great opportunity for partners to leverage their own investments made to address the big data challenge.

The second channel program focused on Watson is centred around cloud-based services. In this program, channel partners can integrate Watson into their own offering in an OEM arrangement or in an embedded scenario.

Steve Gold of the IBM Watson Group
Steve Gold of the IBM Watson Group

“It also augments or can compliment the channel’s own product with cognitive capabilities. Some (partner solutions) may carry the Watson name such as Watson for Oncology and Watson Wealth Management. Others can carry the partner brand and will be designated with ‘Powered by Watson,'” said Gold who is also the Chief Marketing Officer for the Watson Group as well as vice president of partner programs and venture capital investments for the Armonk, N.Y.-based technology giant.

Some examples that are already on the market are GenieMD Powered by Watson and Wayblazer Powered by Watson.

In the GenieMD case, the Pleasanton, Calif.-based company has developed a system for people to take an active role in managing their health by providing personalized medical recommendations along with facilitating communications between the individuals and healthcare providers.

The Watson Group intends to deliver and new class of software, services, apps through the channel that feature cognitive computing for handling all sorts of unstructured data and predictive analytics. Gold said IBM has invested more than $1 billion in the Watson Group and approximately $100 million of that investment will be available to the ecosystem of business partners Big Blue is developing.

“When you look at the challenges individuals face there is a clear opporunity to change that dynamic of solving problems on a personal level,” he added.

Gold cited this examples of how Watson computes on a personal level.

A person who contacts a call centre hopeing for a live person but only gets voice prompts. According to Gold, this scenerio plays itself out 270 billion times per year and more than 50 per cent of those calls go unresloved. “That’s a lot of frustrated customers,” he said.

IBM Watson
IBM Watson

Watson can now take the data from that customer and alert them of the potential problem before it occurs. Or it can help the caller get to the correct live person.

“Professionals are overrun with data and we are producing data at an incredible rate. Just in the last two years all of mankind has created 90 per cent of all the data and most of it is unstructured like articles, customer surveys, tweets and now it can be harnessed and used for the beneift of the business.The value proposition for the channel and the opportunity it has is to offer a way to help the customer make informed and evidence-based decisions. Right now it doesn’t happen and it is in a format where its not actionable or not in the right time table. This reason compelled us to further cognitive technology in the marketplace,” Gold said.

New IBM Incentive offerings
Watson wasn’t the only addition to IBM’s overall channel offering. Big Blue also announced new rewards in its Remarketer Margin Enhancer program. The new rewards will see the channel earn 10 per cent margins on incremental revenue for achieving revenue growth targets when reselling IBM services. There is also a new Services Consumption Program for driving demand and Big Blue expanded the eligibility of the Solution Accelerator Incentive program where business partners can now earn an additional bonus on IBM defined solutions with the SAI Solution Bonus Reward.

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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