New IBM Canada channel boss focuses on Americas alignment

Some six months after replacing Gary Isaacs as director of IBM Canada business partners, Shannon O’Connor says she is still meeting with partners and hearing their concerns, but she has also set-out her own priorities for growing Big Blue’s Canadian channel organization.

Some changes have already been made, and O’Connor says she’s continuing to meet with Canadian partners to get their view on IBM‘s (NYSE: IBM) direction, including the enterprise data centre push and SMB initiatives announced at the recent Business Partner Leadership Conference (BPLC) in Los Angeles.

“In six months I’ve learned a lot,” said O’Connor. “You build a lot of knowledge and experience, and I still need to be working on that.”

Overall, she says she feels IBM’s partner base in Canada is strong, although there’s always areas she says the vendor wants to challenge itself. However, she says the data centre message and mid-market focus is resonating well with Canadian partners.

“I think it’s absolutely on the mark in the Canadian marketplace,” says O’Connor. “Partners are interested in building up their capabilities and focusing in on green resiliency. There’s just such an economic value to our clients in terms of reducing their operating costs that it makes sense, and partners see that. Our role is to bring the end-to-end capability and opportunity to our partners and help them select where they’ll start enhancing their skills.”

She adds IBM is also looking to recruit Canadian partners. Each of IBM’s regions has done an assessment of its partner base to identify gaps, and in Canada the focus will be on SMB and mid-market partners as well as solution-oriented partners, says O’Connor.

Noting that she came into her new role concurrent with IBM’s alignment to customer value initiative, O’Connor says aligned the business partner program to that model has also been a priority, as has more closely aligning what’s happening in Canada with the initiatives coming out of the Americas partner organization.

“It’s really important our team is aligned to Americas, U.S. and global teams to leverage their resources and knowledge of what’s going on,” said O’Connor, adding this won’t just be organizational but will mean tangible benefits for Canadian partners. “We’ve realigned to have a focal point in Canada that more closely aligns to our U.S. sales and marketing organizations, and we have better alignment around incentive programs. It’s leveraging their experience.”

As an example, O’Connor says during a meeting with a Canadian partner at BPLC she was able to pull in an Americas vice-president that immediately had suggestions and resources to bring to the table. It’s about speed of execution, she says.

That speed of execution is also important within Canada, and here O’Connor says her 25 years with IBM and the size of the Canadian organization are an advantage partners can leverage.

“What Canada has as an opportunity for us is we’re a smaller business. I can walk down the hall and talk to the mid-market leader any time,” she says. “It’s an opportunity to drive leadership.”

She adds that in targeting the SMB space in Canada, she feels the combination of Big Blue’s global reach and expertise and the local knowledge and expertise of the channel will be a powerful combination.

“Mid-market clients have been clear they like to work with their local business partner,” said O’Connor. “What IBM brings to the table is a beautiful combination’ the local skill and resources that supports you and this huge capability behind the business partner to bring technology advantage and leadership to the table.”

O’Connor says her primary focus will be to act as an advocate for partners within IBM, as well as driving sustainable growth for the channel community.

“I’ve been with IBM for my whole career, and what I think I can bring to the table is teaming and collaboration within IBM,” said O’Connor. “I started in the services business, that was my favourite role, and I really believe there’s so much we can be doing there.”

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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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