IBM revamps to help partners target the SMB market

At IBM’s PartnerWorld conference in May, president and CEO Sam Palmisano said the SMB market would be IBM’s new focus, and that partners had told him the company had to become easier to do business with. With a recent revamp of its systems and technology group, Big Blue is aiming to address those concerns.

The realignment creates two focused divisions within the systems group: the Business Systems division will focus on the enterprise, while the Power Systems division will focus on SMBs. The SMB-focused division will also design products specifically for that market segment.

Additionally, a new SMB Sales Systems Manager position will be created in each of IBM’s 220 global sales territories to focus solely on SMB sales efforts.

Alex Gogh, vice-president, channels marketing in IBM’s systems and technology group, said the vendor estimates a US$32 billion opportunity in the SMB space for IBM and its partners in systems alone. Today partners contribute 50 per cent of IBM’s SMB revenues and they’d like to increase that figure, said Gogh, adding taking advantage of the systems and services movement will be key to making that happen.

“We’re enhancing the coverage model for our channel partners, making it easier for them to do business with us,” said Gogh. “We’re also making more consistent terms and conditions for our partners across the entire spectrum of IBM offerings, so our partners can spend more time focused on delivering solutions with IBM offerings to our customers.”

Part of integrating IBM for partners and simplifying partners’ interactions with the vendor is getting down to a single point of contact for partners at IBM. In the past, partners would work with a coverage rep as well as brand-focused reps for each product.

“We’re not removing the coverage of the partner, but really providing a single point of contact, with a wealth of resources behind that single point of contact, to support the partner,” said Gogh. “I think partners will see a simplified but enhanced experience from IBM.”

Recognizing that some partners focus on the small end of SMB, some on the larger end, and of course many partners sell to the enterprise, Gogh said IBM will continue to support partners across the spectrum.

“What’s not changing is our commitment that our primary route to market in SMB is through our business partner channel,” said Gogh. “We’re going to be able to have greater accountability in the IBM channel side for covering our partners, and reach more partners.”

The sales reorganization coincides with the introduction of new products designed to appeal to SMBs, including blade servers, he said. IBM announced June 13 the coming BladeCenter S system that is packaged to include server, storage, input-output connections to a network and software integrated into a single chassis. IBM said it plans to begin shipping the product in the fourth quarter.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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