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IBM, Partners Move Forward With Revamped PartnerWorld Program

IBM partners have until June 30th to transition, and on July 1st they move to their new achievement level.

Lynn Haber

January 24, 2017

7 Min Read
IBM, Partners Move Forward With Revamped PartnerWorld Program

Lynn HaberAs promised at last year’s IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference, IBM kicked off 2017 with the launch of a redesigned and competency-centric PartnerWorld program.

Not only did IBM move away from a product-centric program and identify dozens of competencies by which partners will be measured in order to achieve success and earn rewards, the vendor also implemented new membership levels – Registered, Silver, Gold and Platinum – that reflect more granularity. The previous member tier structure included Member, Advanced and Premier.

IBM's Jamie MendezThe new program is in line with IBM’s strategy to help advance partners in the cognitive era, analytics and artificial intelligence.

In a recent blog, Marc Dupaquier, general manager, global business partners at IBM, outlined some key ways that IBM is transforming how it supports and grows its partner ecosystem:

  • IBM launched a new program with 36 initial competencies to help partners grow skills and validate their expertise. Of these, 13 cover technology and services within the IBM Cloud portfolio, spanning in-demand areas such as data, hybrid cloud and cognitive computing.

  • IBM incorporated additional incentives for all the IBM Business Partners across IBM’s diverse ecosystem. This means that partners of all types – consultants and system integrators, cloud service providers, embedded solution providers, managed service providers, independent software vendors and resellers – can participate and reap benefits, regardless of business model. While the objectives are consistent across PartnerWorld, the achievement options, criteria and rewards are tailored to a partner’s specific business model, solution area and market opportunity.

  • IBM introduced four tiers of membership – Registered, Silver, Gold and Platinum – to reward and recognize partner capabilities and sales success. As partners advance to the next level, they’ll receive additional benefits.

In an interview with Jamie Mendez, director, channel marketing, and lead on the redesigned PartnerWorld program, just ahead of the 2017 IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference being held Feb. 13-16, in Las Vegas, she talks about the new PartnerWorld program, partner reception to date, and what’s ahead for IBM partners.{ad}

Channel Partners: Did the new PartnerWorld program roll out as outlined at the 2016 PartnerWorld Leadership Conference?

Jamie Mendez: I think the most significant set of activities that changed is that we originally announced that we’d launch 44 competencies and we went live with 36. And I’ll tell you why. When we announced the 44, four of them were around IBM Spectrum Storage. We heard from some of our partners that there was too much overlap and not enough differentiation, so why not put all the attributes of the four competencies in one? That’s what we did.

[Mendez told us that IBM revisited some of the other competencies as well, and based on feedback, made additional minor tweaks, bringing the number down to 36.]

I will tell you that we’re going to announce …

{vpipagebreak}

… more competencies at this year’s PartnerWorld Leadership Conference and the competencies will continue to expand based on where we’re headed with our strategic road map.

CP: So how is the transition to the new PartnerWorld program going?

JM: Current partners have until June 30 to transition, and on July 1 everyone moves to their new achievement levels based on what they’ve accomplished by that point in time.

We’re very busy; there’s been a lot of activity and partners are really focused. The cultural shift that we’re focused on is the client outcome. As a result, we have partners who have never implemented client-satisfaction surveys or really done housekeeping around client references.

Now we’re saying that these are the things that matter to your clients. What matters is … can they really bring you on as a trusted adviser? And are you mindful of how you perceive the outcome of what you’re doing for them?

Even as IBM, we have to continue to remind ourselves that at the end of the day, if you start with the client outcome in mind first and your achievement there and work back to what’s necessary to achieve that outcome, you will be much more successful. Skills have always been important and we’ve given partners more options to demonstrate those skills with this program, which they’ve really embraced.

CP: What type of partner progress would IBM like to see by the end of June when the old program goes away?

JM: … We’ve done quite a bit of analysis on our partners and we’re not quite where we’d like to be or where we think we’d be in June — yet. So I’d like to make those numbers, which are almost double of where we are in the first 18 days after the new program became effective.

[According to IBM, 74 IBM business partners achieved Platinum level; 4,998 firms achieved Silver and 2,503-reached Gold.]

CP: At PartnerLeadership last year, IBM did say it’s looking to bring in new business partners. Is that happening?

JM: We’re adding new partners all the time. Every year we have an objective to get new partners, but the question is, how fast can we get them activated and meeting the goals they set for themselves as part of their relationship with IBM? It’s easier to do in the revenue space and a little harder to figure out in the implementer or solutions space.

So this year, starting Jan. 1, we’ve set some very specific goals in our solutions space in building out our catalog of offerings that embed IBM technology, but the business partners themselves bring intellectual capital that’s unique to where they participate in the marketplace. So we have a big target for this year and it’s instrumental in …

{vpipagebreak}

… laying the foundation for our recruiting effort.

We have an investment going into this and I think that this is the year that we’re going to prove to the world that we’re not just a bunch of old hardware resellers and that we’ve got this very robust and rich capability to help solution providers bring unique value to market and their clients.

CP: What challenges does IBM face with partners as it continues to change course and continues to report declining revenue?

JM: This is Jamie Mendez’s point of view on this: We’re a 105-year old company and have been through many market changes and we’ve navigated them successfully, and not only navigated them, but in several cases we’ve been the market maker, and we’ve brought the partners along.

I think that’s why you see many partners saying, “This is interesting, have never seen this before, can you make money there?” Now we’re showing them that we’re in this cognitive space. First it was about the game show, then it was about curing cancer and now it’s about commerce and how you make money. We’ve taken them through each of those stages and have shown them over the last year that in fact we are making new markets with cognitive capability.

The partners see that and that there’s going to be a long tail of opportunity and they have to decide where they’re going to jump in. That’s why the competencies and why we changed our program. We’ve built out the exact road map with the exact skills, capabilities [and] demonstrated success that partners need to have to be successful [with cognitive and other new technologies.]

The partners don’t have any time to waste. We’ve given them very specific road maps and they can choose the onramp they want – some are going to choose analytics, some security – cognitive and cloud are mired in security issues and there’s not enough security knowledge out there; or, I’m a traditional hardware reseller …well, what’s needed in this new opportunity is storage. There’s no end to the amount of storage that’s required to put all the massive amounts of data.

So we have the road maps and the fastest, most direct way for partners to play.

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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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