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IBM wants partners on Express Track

Big Blue shells out a pretty penny for a slice of SMB pie

To fuel its sales to small to mid-size businesses, IBM has launched a US$100 million global initiative to add 5,000 new partners to its worldwide reseller base.

Called Express Track, the program provides increased coverage, sales, resources, demand generation and support for IBM’s SMB channel partners.

“With more than 50 per cent of our SMB revenue coming through partners – and SMB comprises around 20 per cent of our overall revenue – this is a very important area for us,” said Richard Michos, vice-president of IBM’s worldwide sales for small and medium business solutions and services.

Michos added that resellers will be more effective in delivering overall IBM technology solutions now with the addition of 300 staff providing sales support in their localities.

One of the main objectives, according to Michos, is for IBM to “open more outlets. Maybe there are places in western U.S. or Alberta that are underserved by business partners and have little access to IBM enablement. Express Track is trying to help us open more outlets in areas where we see opportunity to advance our coverage, expand our resources and energies,” he said.

Paul Myerson, channel analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group, said the additional 300 people is a big win for the channel.

“The vendors consistently throw tools over the wall but they’re not always the easiest things to find, so now they’ve got people who can lock step with the channel to show them how to be effective in utilizing the tools,” said Myerson. For smaller resellers, Express Track is a huge benefit, he added.

Make life simpler
Michos said IBM is committed to making life simpler for business partners when delivering IBM solutions and support to SMB customers.

“We’re investing in making our IT infrastructure such that partners can now log in to one place and get access to all the different systems and technologies through a single portal,” he said.
A new tool called Attach Connector has been created for partners to mock up customer deals online using various IBM products and technologies to figure out system requirements, pricing and margins.

As part of its ongoing SMB market expansion focus throughout 2006, IBM said it has already enlisted over 2,500 business partners worldwide in the first half of the year.

Of the 2,500, the Canadian component was not disclosed. “We view Canada much like we view the U.S.,” said Michos. “By anybody’s rendering with regard to IT, Canada is viewed as a mature market. But much like the U.S. there’s still significant growth occurring, particularly in SMB.”

Chris Burgess, director of sales at Waterloo, Ont.-based integrator Net Direct, said Express Track has given it the ability to rapidly turn around configurations for small and medium-sized clients.

An IBM business partner for three years, Burgess said “the pricing structure has been modeled well for the SMB marketplace, allowing us to bring many enterprise level solutions to that space.”

He added that part of Net Direct’s job is to educate price conscious SMBs on “the value of IBM versus the non-value of Dell.”

“In going through that process, the Express Track gives us the ability to say ‘This is all the value propositions that are part of that service, whether its IBM Global Finance, the Express model of a specific server, managed services or education.’”