IBM goes beyond Express with Smart Business lineup

Andy Monshaw

IBM midmarket boss Andy Monshaw

SAN ANTONIO, TEX.IBM is looking to offer solution providers a better route into the midmarket with a solutions-led approach the company is calling Smart Business.

Andy Monshaw, general manager for the midmarket at IBM, said the company will roll out four Smart Business solutions over the fourth quarter of 2010 and into January, addressing opportunities with virtual desktops, document management, application management and system management.

And unlike IBM’s Express approach for small business, which brings together hardware and software with a price point, Monshaw described Smart Business packages as “true development” – purpose-built and enterprise-class solutions brought down to midmarket price points. Still, Monshaw said partners can expect 20 to 30 points of margin on the IBM components and whatever margins they can tack on for their own services.

While Big Blue has been disengaging with its hardware-centric partners, Monshaw said that over the course of 2010, the company has added 1,000 midmarket-serving partners worldwide, a necessary move as the company in January “deselected direct” as an option for serving midmarket customers. “We have clarified with the channel who is our go-to-market – and it is them,” he said.

In addition to rolling out the four Smart Business solutions, Monshaw said Big Blue has a 30-person solutions sales team that is working with partners to develop opportunities for those four packages and those to come after it.

The solutions are designed to address customer needs as well as a unique disconnect in the channel. Monshaw reported that the two pieces of feedback he’s heard from the channel are that “margins are phenomenal” and that “I’m struggling with my hardware margins.”

“Partners in that latter category have not moved fast enough towards services,” he said. “They need to build long-term services around each engagements, and that’s part of the model of those solutions.”

It’s part of an overall switch to a solutions- and services-led language highlighted here at Avnet’s IBM Partner Summit by Monshaw, IBM global channel chief Rich Hume and a variety of other IBMers.

“If you haven’t considered how to move your business to services, you need to start working on it,” Monshaw said. “Our movement in this space is going to be more business-outcome focused and less about feed and speeds. The opportunity to build services practices around this is enormous and the margins for our partners are very healthy.”

Monshaw said IBM has removes certification requirements to access the solutions, particularly for primarily hardware-based partners who are looking to break into the services and software sides of the business. And IBM will be looking to provide training and guidance around services and most importantly business process engineering.

Along with the sales staff, Monshaw said IBM will have a virtual briefing centre for its Smart Business solutions launching by early November and full rollouts for the full solutions through the fourth quarter of 2010.

The four Smart Business solutions will roll out in North America in English first, with additional geographies joining in as additional languages are added. The company is also already eyeing its next Smart Business solutions, with Monshaw describing the lineup as “four solutions en route to 20.”

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