IBM Prepares Partners to Leverage Emerging Tech

Lata Singh

Flush from the acquisition of Red Hat, IBM is preparing to leverage emerging technologies in driving digital transformation that is redefining business models and technology architectures and new workloads. In a chat with Channel Times, Lata Singh, Director One-Channel at IBM India discusses how the company proposes to take the solutions to these challenges to the market in 2020 and how the partner network would support these initiatives:

Channel Times: The Red Hat acquisition is helping IBM in creating a strong partner ecosystem. Please provide a context of the acquisition and how you are maintaining synergies in business and partner ecosystem while incorporating the best features?

Lata Singh: IBM and Red Hat have been partners for over 20 years and we’ll continue to operate as independent, collaborative entities. What unites us is our commitment to open standards and contributions to the open source community. This allows us to drive unprecedented growth and innovation for our partners and customers.

IBM is committed to growing and preserving Red Hat’s partner ecosystem, independence, platform neutrality and the company culture. With the vast majority of Red Hat’s revenue produced by their ecosystem, we make it easier for partners to provide both Red Hat and IBM offerings. While we will continue to cultivate distinct partner ecosystems, we are working to engage with Red Hat partners continuously.

We now are inviting Red Hat partners to participate in our Watson Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered collaboration tool – IBM Business Partner Connect – that enables partners with complementary capabilities to find each other, get to market faster and sell together.

Our Watson AI-powered chatbot, PartnerWorldAdvisor for IBM partners now features Red Hat partners’ frequently asked questions content, so IBM business partners can get the information they need right at their fingertips.

Channel Times: What technologies are you using for your partner ecosystem to leverage emerging technologies in driving digital transformation?

Lata Singh: Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, automation, IoT, blockchain etc are becoming more pervasive and their combined impact has started to reshape business models and technology architectures. Up till now, we saw the Chapter one of digital transformation for industry where companies experimented with AI and moved simple workloads to cloud. Now there’s an industry shift to Chapter two – moving from experimentation to complete transformation while gaining speed and scale. Organizations cannot become truly digital without an agile hybrid cloud infrastructure which is open, secure, managed and built to run AI, automation and analytics solutions. Chapter two will be about scaling AI and creating hybrid cloud solutions. AI applied through hybrid multi-cloud model will enable companies to mine data, manage workloads and leverage multiple cloud environments.

To support growth in the cloud, we are empowering partners to adopt IBM Cloud Paks which are enterprise-grade container software packages with guidance and step-by-step instructions to quickly build with open standards to enable hybrid and multicloud deployments. Built for Kubernetes on the IBM Cloud, IBM Cloud Paks are designed to accelerate time to production and improve readiness at a lower cost than containers alone. This will support our partners to reduce the overall cost and time of deployment moving forward.

Channel Times: What is IBM’s India Channel strategy for 2020? Where do you see the maximum focus?

Lata Singh: In India, our channel approach is three-pronged, namely, enabling our business partners with skills to address the client needs of digital transformation, engaging with them to address new workloads to address customer requirements and empowering them by identifying new revenue streams they can add to their offerings through our products & solutions.

The three-pronged strategy enables our partners to execute and evolve as they join us on the Chapter two of the Digital Transformation journey that the clients are embarking on.  This means moving from experimentation to true transformation, gaining speed and scale.

We are working with our partner community to accelerate the development and delivery of cloud and AI solutions to our clients and at the same time improve our partner’s end-to-end experience, which is core to the relationship. IBM’s channel team will focus on encouraging partners to gain expertise around hybrid cloud, security and AI as well as emerging technologies like blockchain. With the right skills, our partners can lead the discussions with the clients on their transformation journey.

We are also working to unleash the power of the ecosystem through embedded solutions and enabling the third-party marketplace and SaaS delivery models focused on customer success.

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Channel Times: Can you share IBM’s roadmap for new channel program, certifications and specialised partners training?

Lata Singh: We have an elaborate plan in this direction which will be seen in the following ways:

Seismic@IBM is a new sales enablement solution with sales kits, sales plays, presentations, use cases and other assets from across the IBM portfolio for sellers and partners to support their enablement needs. This will include a link to the Cloud Digital Technical Engagement program so partners can easily access important information on IBM Cloud while preparing for client engagements.

Value Package 2.0 which will include the ability to double IBM cloud credits, a development sandbox environment, and discount vouchers for some of the leading education industry events and subscription discounts.

‘New Software Deal Registration’ which gives partners priority access to special pricing, is designed to reduce conflict between partners while improving the overall margins. This is part of our ongoing transformation efforts that began in January 2018, to improve partner experience and profitability, across projects channel pricing, incentives and onboarding.

IBM drives engagement with our partner ecosystem through multiple marquee events. The AP RSI Summit at Bali in Feb, Cloud Fast Start in Singapore in March and the Partner world & Think event at San Francisco in May in 2020 will see partners, customers and IBMers  from across the world coming together for sharing , learning and collaborating with each other.

We also have a new Cloud Digital Technical Engagement program for partners and clients, which give unprecedented, self-service access to technical assets focused on product demos and tutorials. These assets foster a deeper understanding of our product offerings and their role in catalysing our clients’ journey to the Cloud and AI.

Partners have the opportunity to accelerate skill development, and capture growth in AI, Cloud, IoT, Security etc and continue to expand their businesses with IBM. To accelerate our progress in helping partners build next gen skills, we have new Business Partner sales and technical journeys on the IBM Skills Gateway platform that provide partners with the same learning experience as IBM clients and sellers to develop their IBM portfolio expertise and help them earn IBM credentials.  Globally, partners have doubled in their number of competencies in 2018.  From 2017 to 2018, the number of Specialist competencies grew from 909 to 2096, and expert competencies grew from 641 to 1,266. In India the skill set on Security, Data & AI as well as Integration continue to be the focus that IBM Partners are building as the clients drive  deeper discussion on capability to deliver and outcomes expected.

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