IBM (NYSE:IBM) has long worked with channel partners, but in the last year the company has intensified its efforts to woo a particular kind of channel partner, managed service providers. How have those efforts been received by MSPs? IBM's VP of marketing for midmarket Ed Abrams told MSPmentor that the company's MSP partner ranks have grown to about 1,400 today from a few hundred at the end of 2011, and 30 to 35 new MSPs are added each week. Now IBM is building even further on its MSP initiative. Here's the scoop.
This week IBM is formalizing its efforts by rolling out a complete program targeting the MSP market in particular that brings sales and account management functions as well as technical support to managed services partners. IBM will also build out four Centers of Excellence designed for MSPs where organizations can come and talk about technology, economics and pricing, Abrams said. The centers will be located in Shanghai; Tokyo; Ehningen, Germany; and New York City.
All together it means a big IBM investment in the people at IBM who support MSPs, the hands-on opportunities for MSPs to work with IBM technologies, the financing help available to acquire technologies needed to provide cloud services and the real marketing investment to target customers, and build leads that will translate into closed deals.
"When it all adds up we think we have the most compelling full partner program out there," Abrams said.
IBM is framing the effort as one to expand its own cloud ecosystem and enable organizations to develop solutions and services on IBM SmartCloud and PureSystems (announced earlier this year), built on open standards. (And with that in mind, IBM has also announced support for OpenStack.) Local customers are looking for local technology providers to help them navigate cloud services, IBM said in its prepared statement announcing the MSP initiative. And IBM is also looking for MSPs who want to target vertical markets such as healthcare, providing cloud-based EHR-type services to end-user companies.
In addition to the increased support and Centers of Excellence, IBM is also beefing up marketing support for MSPs to help them build their brands, generate demand for their services, and grow their marketing skills. In addition, IBM will also offer financing options through IBM Global Financing to help MSPs acquire new technologies.
"We looked at a lot of what MSPs are getting out there and it tends to be an extension of a very traditional partner program," Abrams said. "We don’t want to treat MSPs that way... We started from ground up for MSPs to build something for their needs."