IBM Takes Partners To Cloud, Cognitive Era

IBM India and South Asia
Mukul Mathur
VP-Global Business Partners and SI, IBM India and South Asia

The changing face of technology has driven IBM to pivot from a hardware and software services company to a cognitive solutions and cloud platform company. Accordingly, IBM has been streamlining its channel strategy to align with these new and emerging market trends. In an exclusive interaction with ChannelTimes, Mukul Mathur, VP-Global Business Partners and SI at IBM India and South Asia, explains how this transition is gradually changing the company’s channel strategy. He also elaborates on the renewed PartnerWorld Program that aims to provide channel partners with a roadmap for driving business growth and value.

CT: Can you tell us about this transformation within IBM and how is channel fitting into this overall strategy?
IBM has been on a transformational journey over the last couple of years. While the new focus is now on cognitive computing, the Internet of things, analytics and cloud, this multidimensional transformation offer significant opportunities to our channel partners – both new and existing ones -who continue to be the part of the growing business.

CT: With this transformation, what has changed in your expectations from the channel and vice versa? 
The model is indeed different from the past, in which a partner entrusted with a customer. If you go back to the partner ecosystems in the past, partners used to be resellers and then evolved to solutions providers and SI based merely on their industry expertise. In recent times, however, the conversations with partners are no longer confined to industry expertise or the number of certifications they have. It is solely on the basis of the competencies and the value the partner could bring on board. Herein, we have articulated the three ‘E’s of IBM’s channel outlook: Engage, enable and execute.
Engaging involves the understanding of what a partner can do; Enabling would entail creating platforms – both physical and digital – in the form of forums and events for partners on what they have to offer to targeted customers. In the last 12 months, IBM partners are also being tiered on verifiable client references than merely on revenues. And hence, IBM is also changing the way it evaluates rewards and incentivizes its partners.

CT: Can you elaborate on the newly redesigned PartnerWorld program? How will it further benefit partners? 
This February, IBM launched a newly redesigned IBM PartnerWorld program that expands on its commitment to make partners more compatible with a cloud services era and aims to reorient partners around its cognitive computing efforts called Watson. In addition, the redesigned IBM PartnerWorld program aims at recognizing and rewarding partners with more predictable performance incentives.

As part of the redesign, IBM is also making a significant investment with new partners, introducing a Skill Pack offering with education, support offerings, as well as a test voucher to aid in accelerating their time to market. Additionally, new competencies will be offered to Business Partners to support their transition to growth areas with increased opportunities.

CT: IBM is also extending a number of benefits for partners. Can you please tell us about some of these benefits?
At IBM, we are accelerating growth with new digital programs. Globally, IBM introduced a newly designed PartnerWorld University portal, web-based learning management system delivering education to Business Partners to help build sales and technical skills, with a broader repository of courses to allow them to gain new IBM certifications.
We have added a number of Digital Marketing Workshops across the globe, designed to enable Business Partners to include digital and social tactics in their campaigns, thus helping to increase their ability to attract new clients and buyers.
You would find an expansion of IBM’s Business Transformation Initiative (BTI) workshop offering to reach significantly more partners across the globe who are looking to transition their business models to higher value solutions and “as a service” delivery.

CT: What is your channel roadmap for the next 12-18 months in India?
India is a key market for IBM and we are offering much richer incentives for partners, with a focus on the cloud business. We now have a very selective approach for partners on our SaaS, IaaS offerings.
We are already working with partners to engage them on Bluemix Application development platform, helping them achieve technical certifications, accelerate development and offer support. In the coming months, we will do significantly more go-to-market engagement with our partners, increase our co-marketing activities, joint customer calls and engagements and share more partner successes with customers.
We are organizing more partner forums this year for better engagement between channel partners and the industry stakeholders, including the CXOs, CIOs in particular, and analysts. We are significantly looking to increase the number of channel partners across region in India.
Also, while large enterprise will continue to be our strength, IBM offerings, through partners, would mean a big focus on the commercial and the SME markets with the cloud consumption based model.

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