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IBM to Replace PartnerWorld with New Partner Plus Program

IBM’s ecosystem investment includes moving thousands of direct customers to its channel partners.

Jeffrey Schwartz

January 4, 2023

5 Min Read
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IBM is kicking off the new year by replacing the longstanding PartnerWorld program with IBM Partner Plus. Big Blue’s new program, which it launched on Wednesday, is the manifestation of IBM’s focus on expanding its ecosystem.

The new program promises to provide existing and new partners with simpler engagement and to facilitate growth. It offers unified tiers and benefits across various partner types, including resellers, hyperscalers, solution providers, ISVs and systems integrators.

Kate Woolley, general manager of IBM’s ecosystem, said the company would begin phasing in the new program immediately. IBM will phase out PartnerWorld, the name of its partner program since the 1990s, on July 1.

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IBM’s Kate Woolley

“IBM Partner Plus is the next step in our investment in the IBM ecosystem,” Woolley said during a briefing with media and analysts. “It is a simple, transparent and predictable program. It gives our partners a simplified path for them to progress with IBM, whether they’re building, selling or servicing. And it is inclusive of all of our partner types.”

Here’s our most recent list of important channel-program changes you should know.

IBM Ecosystem Strategy

The new program is the outgrowth of IBM’s new ecosystem strategy, tracing back to May 2020 with the launch of its Build, Sell and Services tracks, said Anurag Agrawal, founder and chief global analyst at Techaisle. According to Agrawal, it took on more urgency a year after IBM chairman and CEO Arvind Krishna declared the ecosystem as one of the company’s key priorities.

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Techaisle’s Anurag Agrawal

“As a result, IBM has increased its specialized resources by 50% and technical resources by 30% to support the partner ecosystem,” Agrawal said.

One partner that participated in developing IBM Partner Plus, Evolving Solutions, has benefited from those resources.

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Evolving Solutions’ Bo Gebbie

“IBM’s program really allows us to help our sellers, upskill and enhance their skills, [and] it does the same for our technical teams with their abilities,” said the company’s president, Bo Gebbie. “And it really helps us expand our focus around hybrid cloud and where our technology ecosystem is going as a company in support of our clients.”

Shifting More Direct Accounts to Partners

Driving IBM’s “doubling down” on its ecosystem investment is its decision to shift more of its direct accounts to partners. Woolley said IBM has historically had thousands of direct accounts that the company is now shifting to its partners.

“This will go to several hundred accounts,” she said. “We will continue to work with partners as to how we can continue to evolve and grow our business with our existing our existing IBM accounts.”

While the shift should benefit partners, it is also in IBM’s interest, Agrawal noted.

“IBM has limited resources and is building its partner program for the highest common numerator instead of the lowest common denominator,” he said.

Another catalyst for IBM’s increased ecosystem investment was its decision to spin off its consulting business, now known as Kyndryl.

Insider Access

Woolley noted a key tenant of the program is Insider Access. IBM launched Insider Access in October, which Woolley described as making partners an extension of its internal sales and support teams. It provides partners with badging, sales enablement materials and the same training made available to insiders.

With Insider Access, IBM provides demand-generation tools that aim to provide competitive pricing. It also permits partners to attend IBM’s quarterly sales kickoff event with internal IBM sellers. Furthermore, IBM is launching its New Partner Accelerator, which provides onboarding and access to benefits for their first six months.

New Tiering Plan

IBM Partner Plus introduces new tiering for partners that emphasize using educational resources and revenue growth. The company will assign partners silver, gold or platinum tiers based on both factors.

“As they progress through the tiers, they will unlock additional benefits and go-to-market support,” Woolley said. “Sell and service will scale through based on proficiency badges, and as they scale and grow their revenue. For our ISV or build partners, they will scale through the program based on client ready validated solutions that integrate IBM technology and scaling their revenue with IBM technology in the market. “

IBM also has a “blue” designation for “a select coalition of our most strategic partners, where we have deep partnerships across both IBM Consulting and IBM Technology,” Woolley said. “It includes partners such as AWS, Microsoft, Adobe, Cisco, SAP, Samsung, Salesforce and others.”

When new partners enroll in the program, they start as registered partners with access to the New Partner Accelerators.

“The whole idea behind the new partner accelerator is supporting them on their journey to get to silver,” Woolley said.

Partners can track their progress with the revamped IBM Partner Portal, which the company rolled out last year. It tracks partners’ expertise, revenue and deals. According to IBM, current PartnerWorld partners will remain in their current tier through the July 1 end of the program; however, they can transition into the new tiering system sooner as they qualify.

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email Jeffrey Schwartz or connect with him on LinkedIn.

 

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About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Schwartz

Jeffrey Schwartz has covered the IT industry for nearly three decades, most recently as editor-in-chief of Redmond magazine and executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner. Prior to that, he held various editing and writing roles at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek and VARBusiness (now CRN) magazines, among other publications.

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