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IBM CEO Sam Palmisano: Partner Success Is Perishable

During his keynote at the IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference, CEO Sam Palmisano (pictured)  told attendees IBM's current success was built upon strategic decisions Big Blue made back in 2002. "We saw three macro changes coming," said Palmisano. Among them: PCs becoming a commodity and the need for a post-PC business strategy.

The VAR Guy

February 15, 2011

2 Min Read
IBM CEO Sam Palmisano: Partner Success Is Perishable

IBM CEO Sam Palmisano

During his keynote at the IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference, CEO Sam Palmisano (pictured)  told attendees IBM’s current success was built upon strategic decisions Big Blue made back in 2002. “We saw three macro changes coming,” said Palmisano. Among them: PCs becoming a commodity and the need for a post-PC business strategy. He warned channel partners that they won’t exist in 2015 if they don’t start investing in innovation now.

While addressing roughly 1,300 IBM channel partners, Palmisano said the three macro changes — spotted back in 2002 — involved:

  1. Changes in world markets and a re-balancing of the global economy

  2. A new technology model, post-PC, would emerge

  3. Customers would focus on integration and innovation. “In 2002 we weren’t clear enough to call it the cloud,” said Palmisano. “Today it’s called the cloud.”

Looking ahead, IBM is focused on four opportunities:

  1. Growth markets in Asia and other emerging regions: “There are cities in china bigger than country operations in the rest of the world.”

  2. Analytics: “All those sensors, tags and smart phones are creating digital footprints” need to be analyzed.

  3. Cloud Computing: IBM announced a cloud computing specialty for channel partners earlier today.

  4. Smarter Planet: “Of all the decisions I’ve made this was one of the hardest. Selling the PC business was obvious. It was over; it was going to become a commodity. It took no thought. This — Smarter Planet — was hard” because it involved evangelizing a new idea during a bleak economy. “But guess what it’s happening.”

What partners need to do:

  1. Invest in your skills and focus on customer outcomes.

  2. Embrace IBM’s growing software portfolio.

  3. Develop leadership infrastructure capabilities. “Understand the importance of applications and workloads,” said Palmisano.

  4. Expand your service capabilities?

When IBM Channel Chief Rich Hume introduced Palmisano, he touch a subtle shot at rivals like Oracle, HP and Dell. Indeed, Hume noted that Palmisano has avoided “the quick and flashy path” of mergers and acquisitions. Instead, IBM made key decisions way back in 2002 and the company has since delivered 32 quarters of year-to-year growth. “We’re the only company in the DOW 30 to do that,” said Palmisano. “We’re in the strongest financial position in 40 years… we’ve had a great run together [with partners].”

So what has IBM learned in 100 years of business? “Success is perishable,” said Palmisano. “If you don’t invest, you don’t innovate and you don’t move to the future you don’t exist.”

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