Big Blue made a bevy of announcements at its annual PartnerWorld event aimed at making it easier to work with, easier to deliver IBM solutions to clients and easier to partner with fellow systems integrators and solution providers.Noting that IBM is investing US$6 billion annually in partner programs, Ravi Marwaha, general manager of global business partners said IBM is committed to investing in its channel partners. “It’s been a priority for us before, but never like this,” said Marwaha. “We are serious about simplifying your business with us.”
It will do so by taking advantage of social networking and Web 2.0 technologies. Marwaha said IBM views collaboration among business partners as key to capitalizing on the SMB market opportunity.
The new tools include Lotus Connections for Partners, a secure online environment for partners to share profile information and best practices and even find new business partners with needed subject area expertise for joint business ventures.
Also new is IBM developer-Works community spaces, a technical resource for partners and developers with community-moderated subject areas featuring best practices and educational materials supplied by both IBM and community members in a range of subject areas.
As well, IBM has expanded its PartnerWorld Industry Networks program, adding a Valuenet Connections section to help drive partner collaboration.
Chris Wong, vice-president of strategy and marketing with IBM developer relations, said social networking started with consumers and is just now starting to migrate into organizations.
“I think the whole social networking idea is really a journey, and this is the first step in that journey,” said Wong. “The commercial value of bringing our partners together around opportunity is important.”
The vendor also announced the roll-out of its Express Advantage program for partners selling to midmarket companies in 23 new countries, as well as new systems, software and services targeted at the midmarket.
In the server space, IBM System i 515 Express and IBM System i 525 Express have been added to the Express offerings, with IBM System Storage TS2340 Tape Drive Express Model added in the storage area and IBM Lotus Complete Messaging Express Starter Pack and IBM Lotus Complete Collaboration Express Starter Pack added on the software side.
As well, new tools for partners launched as part of Express Advantage include enhanced Solutions Builder Express starting points and an enhanced Solutions Consultant Express Tool. IBM has also created a new Business Continuity specialty offering for partners.
The Express Advantage program has made it easier for Solutions-II Inc. to more quickly train its sales force on IBM products, according to David Stone, its vice-president of business development.
Solutions-II, based in Littleton, Col., is an IBM partner, which since its founding in 1992 has transitioned its business from a hardware focus to software and more recently services. The 56-person company specializes in storage and server consolidation, management of those systems and disaster recovery.
Although the company’s business is in the U.S., Stone welcomes the global expansion of Express Advantage. “The more prevalent it is will help all of us,” he said. Stone expects plenty of useful input to further improve and broaden the program to come from outside of North America.
“When they [IBM] focus investment in a market space, they win that particular sector,” Stone said. Given IBM’s size, it takes time for that to happen, but he believes the vendor is making a lot of the right moves in the SMB market at a faster speed than in the past.