IBM business partners get immediate business support and enablement to grow tomorrow.

Lynn Haber

April 23, 2020

5 Min Read
Weigh in on COVID-19 support programs

IBM business partners and executive channel leadership at IBM are in synch about a robust COVID-19 relief plan introduced this week. The latest pandemic response measures address the partner program, competencies, cloud and AI, and new go-to-market models.

IBM’s initial COVID-19 commitment to partners rolled out in March. A digital resource page, introduced at the time, continues to be updated.


IBM’s David La Rose

“How we constructed this is an important part of the discussion. We have global advisory councils, one that we updated the team on yesterday morning – North America and Europe, and Asia Pacific countries – Japan, China, and the rest of Asia in the evening,” David La Rose, general manager, partner ecosystem, told Channel Partners. “We’re hearing about partner priorities and how we’re responding. It’s a two-way street. We’re looking for feedback and dialogue about, are we doing enough and what can we press more on.”

Coming just a few weeks ahead of IBM Think 2020 – now Think Digital – scheduled for May5-6, La Rose talks about the four categories the vendor is addressing.

The first area is programs, terms and how to help stabilize the partner’s business, quickly.

IBM is extending the IBM PartnerWorld Program revalidation and certification grace period from May 5, 2020 to January 1, 2021. Partners are guaranteed that they will remain at their program tier level for the remainder of the year.

“The gates that we had for May and July have been lifted. Partners will maintain their current status,” said La Rose.

  • The use of eligible partners’ co-marketing funds is been extended.

  • IBM has added millions of dollars into the incentive portfolio for distributors and specialty partners in markets, worldwide.

  • IBM extended flexible financing options for IBM Power and IBM Storage solutions to partners and clients through IBM Global Financing.

  • The company also increased Q2 performance incentives for Power and Storage partners.

The second bucket of measure addresses developing competencies.

“Partners are telling us that they don’t have all the skills needed for today and tomorrow. And, North America is not immune to this,” said La Rose. “So, what we’re doing this year is increase the number of assets that we have and the capabilities that we have digitally. That’s around enablement, selling skills, providing visual selling activities, offering webinars on technical support, even to the extent that we’re doing proof of concepts in a virtual environment.”

Here is how IBM is addressing the area of competencies.

  • Think Digital offers partners tracks and is free.

  • Enablement webinars are available.

  • Access to key virtual selling tools are available to help partners shift from in-person selling to remote digital selling.

  • Resources to help plan/prospect and progress leads are available. There’s also information for partners on how to run a digital workshop with the Digital Technical Engagement team.

The third area of new measures address how to harness IBM’s cloud and AI portfolio. The company launched a 90-day software offerings and trials at no cost for cloud and cognitive software, for example.

“We’ve opened this up across the majority of our software portfolio. It allows the partners to act quickly, integrate that into a proposal to clients, get them online, get them to try something, it has technical capabilities built-in,” said La Rose.

From a hardware perspective, IBM put together a set of focused solutions for IBM Power, IBM Security, IBM Storage, IBM Z and LinuxONE. “There are also extended flexible financing options for [partners’] clients.”

Other new measures in this bucket:

  • IBM’s Skills for Deals program for security, valid through April 30th, lets partners follow technical skills development programs at no cost.

  • Ongoing Seismic updates.

The fourth area addressed by IBM today is enabling partners to run their own digital demand. IBM launched IBM MyDigital Marketing in February. Today there are about 1,800 partners on the platform.

“If you’re a new partner and you haven’t tried it yet, if you give this thing a shot, we’ll give you a $2,000 credit,” said La Rose.

More specifically, the My Digital Marketing promotion helps partners build and execute…

…Q2 digital marketing campaigns. Limitations apply, up to $2,000 USD and vary by country.

Other go-to-marketing enablement:

  • Eligible Q2 software co-marketing digital activities funded at 100%, up from 50%.

  • Digital marketing consultations are an eligible co-marketing expense.

  • Partners have access to the IBM Virtual Client Center allowing 24/7 access to solution demos, webinars, and more.

La Rose took the reins as IBM’s global channel chief in August. The company’s strategy built around four pillars hasn’t changed.

The first pillar is about expanding the company’s footprint in strategic segments. “Our partners want to know where we want them to play,” he said. “We need to expand our client footprint and we need our partners to do that.”

IBM has its sights set on the midsize and commercial market segments. And, the company is putting resources to achieve this goal. “IBM manages the enterprise well. We have a lot of sellers wearing blue suits covering that segment. We’re happy for our partners to be in there, working on that. But, we’ll pay them less than if they help us expand our footprint in midsize and commercial,” said La Rose.

The second pillar is accelerating IBM’s hybrid cloud strategy. “We’ve integrated Red Hat, containerized all our middleware software products, and we’ve announced Cloud Paks, our containerized software. We need our partners to be going after that,” he said.

The other two pillars are differentiating through partner value and building a strong culture with our people.

“The partner program has, largely, been a program of resell, for years. Most of our partners have been brought up in that program and built their businesses on it. But, the market has shifted to platforms, to consumption, so this is one thing this COVID situation will actually help accelerate that transformation,” said La Rose.

Expect to hear IBM make directional statements about the evolution of IBM’s partner program from resell to platforms and consumption, at the upcoming IBM Digital conference.

“Currently, all of the skills and expertise has been around classroom learning and digital. But, you’re going to see an acceleration of how we enable our salesforces and partner’s employees get the skills they need faster through a digital platform,” said La Rose.

To date, about 11,000 partners are registered for IBM Think Digital 2020.

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About the Author(s)

Lynn Haber

Content Director Lynn Haber follows channel news from partners, vendors, distributors and industry watchers. If I miss some coverage, don’t hesitate to email me and pass it along. Always up for chatting with partners. Say hi if you see me at a conference!

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