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IBM's new global channel chief brings many years of global experience to the job.
August 8, 2019
David La Rose, IBM’s new global channel leader, hails from Australia where he began his career with IBM. No stranger to the channel, he has worked with outgoing global channel chief John Teltsch, on and off for half of his almost 30-year career at IBM.
IBM’s David La Rose
La Rose has some impressive shoes to fill. He freely showers praise on his colleague who he admits has done an incredible job transforming the programs, the barriers to entry into the IBM partner ecosystem, simplifying the experience and helping partners grow in strategic areas.
So, where from here for La Rose?
Channel Futures caught up with La Rose to find out what lies ahead for him as the IBM channel chief and his near-term objectives.
Channel Futures: You haven’t even had time to warm up the seat that you’ll be sitting in as the general manager of the IBM Partner Ecosystem, so introduce yourself to our partner readers.
David La Rose: A brief background: I’m a 30-year IBMer and have spent about one-third of that time in Australia, moving through the ranks with various responsibilities, and two-thirds of that time outside Australia. The majority of the time outside of Australia has been across Asia — in Japan in the systems group, eight years in Shanghai as IBM built its growth market units. That was an incredible experience as I was part of an ecosystem that was on a massive expansion program into new territories and countries as we expanded our portfolio.
More recently, I ran the channel for Europe, having spent time running Eastern Europe as the general manager, after which I came back to Australia as managing director for Australia and New Zealand. This [channel ecosystem] job is really a coming back for me. I’ve been in and out of the channel three or four times in my career and the channel has always been a special part of the IBM company.
In the early days, when we had consumer products and x86 products, that’s where I spent a lot of my time but, really, I’ve never seen a better time to come back into the ecosystem and I’m delighted to be able to lead it. We have so many things going on, including Red Hat, a very exciting opportunity for us to scale this hybrid multicloud offering that we now have.
CF: What are your top objectives going forward?
DLR: Five days into the role, there are four things that are top of mind.
The first and foremost is delivering growth to our partners, particularly for the next quarter. That’s our primary responsibility here and over the course of the next eight weeks where I’ll spend a lot of my time.
The second priority is exploring how Red Hat can scale inside the IBM portfolio and how we can leverage the partner network that Red Hat has to continue to scale the IBM portfolio, particularly, the services element of that.
Red Hat is going to be an independent unit inside of IBM. It’s…
…very different from previous acquisitions that we’ve done, and maintaining that independence and neutrality is critically important. At the same time, when it comes to the marketplace that’s where we come together. So, it’s how do we drive an engine around the hybrid multicloud offering that we have?
So, I think Red Hat is going to define us and our partner ecosystem over the course of the next 12 to 18 months.
Third, the great work that John started around the transformation of the partner ecosystem is — and he would say this as well — halfway done. A lot of work has been done; we’re going to continue on that journey and hopefully conclude it over the next 18 months — continue to lower the barrier to entry for partners participating in the IBM ecosystem and develop the next-gen partners, which is about accelerating our cloud and cognitive AI, security portfolio, the areas of our portfolio that are growing very quickly and then continuing to lead in the marketplace around hybrid multicloud.
The fourth priority that’s very important to me, and I think was to John as well, is building a strong culture with our people, a mindset around innovation and empowerment to make a difference for partners in the particular market and segment that they’re serving. This is both within the IBM organization and how we engage in the market with our partners — showing up differently and bringing that innovation to the marketplace.
CF: Red Hat is where you get to distinguish your time as channel chief from your predecessor. Please talk about that.
DLR: The Red Hat partners will remain Red Hat partners under a Red Hat-driven partner program, just like our own PartnerWorld program has its own programs, incentives and so on. The teams have been working for months with the Red Hat team to look at the overlap of the partner communities. There is a small percentage of overlap but interestingly, if you look at the market that we play in — about 170 different markets, whereas Red Hat plays in a much smaller number, 30 or so — that offers Red Hat an incredible opportunity to scale into countries and markets they’re not in today. In those markets there’s a common distribution network between the two of us that we’re engaging with.
So, this is all about scaling, using IBM’s scale with the existing portfolio of Red Hat, both the Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Open Shift, the two primary elements that we want to continue to take to the marketplace
CF: When you address partners at IBM Think 2020 and PartnerWorld [May 4-7, 2020, in San Francisco], what do you hope you’ll be able to say to attendees?
DLR: I hope that I’ll be able to demonstrate a couple of things. Number one, that they’re continuing to see acceleration of the ecosystem transformation – that it’s easier to work with IBM, that we continue to be a profitable partner for them and that we’re helping them scale their businesses. So…
…for them to come to me and say, “The journey that we had during John’s time continues and is accelerating.”
The second thing is, we now see an incredible opportunity in the market and we’re leveraging the opportunity to differentiate us in the marketplace as it relates to the hybrid multicloud space. And, that’s an area that we haven’t scaled into before, so it’s offering partners new revenue streams and new access to enterprise clients.
Additionally, I’d like to demonstrate how we’re filling out the rest of our portfolio and the continuing opportunities that we have around cloud, security, and AI — and being able to offer their customers new solutions with AI capabilities — and, in areas such as logistics and how they’re leveraging blockchain opportunities that we have. So, it’s really about how they are able to scale into new spaces or new parts of our portfolio.
That would be a terrific outcome for me at the upcoming Think event.
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