Preview: IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference 2011

Grande Lakes Resort

Grande Lakes Resort, home of PartnerWorld 2011

Big Blue is bringing together more than 2,000 of its top business partners from around the world for its 2001 PartnerWorld Leadership Conference at the Grande Lakes Resort in Orlando, Fla. this week.

And somewhere, darting amongst those 2,000-plus partners, looking to get behind the story and make sure we’ve got the comments from all the appropriate thought leaders (as well as lots of coffee) will be

Here’s a look at what we’re hoping to learn while on-site in sunny FLA.

A quick look at the schedule, and Big Blue’s got a pretty full day and a half of content on its hand – not surprising, given the many units of the vendor that are vying for partners’ attention both here at the conference and when selling to end-users in the marketplace.

The main-tent sessions alone read a lot like an IBM org chart, starting with CEO Sam Palmisano and worldwide channel chief Rich Hume, making it through software group boss Steve Mills, middleware leader (and Canadian) Robert LeBlanc, and even Bob Hoey, general manager of IBM Global Services.

Here are some of the topics I’m expecting to hear a lot more about:

  • The Cloud:  Hey, it’s 2011. Everyone’s got a cloud strategy, and Big Blue is no exception to that rule. The company has been making some big moves on the Canadian cloud scene, but how will that impact the company’s solution providers? And, indeed, how is it shaping the definition of exactly who business partners are and what they do? Call me crazy, but I’m thinking IBM might answer those questions and probably a few more on the subject of the issue du jour in the tech world.
  • Midmarket: IBM made a bold statement last year, basically handing over to the midmarket space to its partners and implementing a new strategy to address the segment. That’s stuff to be applauded right there. But now that partners have the steering wheel, what is IBM doing to make sure they also have the accelerator they need? I’ll be keeping a close eye on the company’s midmarket efforts, including what it’s doing around partner enablement and what we’ll see next from its Smarter Business line of midmarket solutions.
  • Commitment: Hanging out at the airport with a few partners heading to Orlando for the event, more than a few expressed how happy they were that the conference is back this year. After format and style changes, and even some time off, it would appear partners are looking to IBM to put a stake in the ground with this year’s event. Safe to assume, most partners would like to see this event return to its regular scheduled status on the event calendar. And it’s not just because most Canadians look for any excuse to escape the icy confines of our home and native land in February.
  • The Watson Factor: Okay, this one’s purely for fun, but IBM’s Watson super-computer just happens to be on the game-show Jeopardy! taking on two super-contestants from that show’s past in an epic battle of artificial intelligence versus the real deal. What does this mean for IBM’s channel partners? Aside from further strengthening the IBM brand with current and prospective customers, I’m not sure. But I’m willing to bet that Watson’s performance is going to be at least a dominant water-cooler topic here at the show.
  • And the Winner is: The Grammies may have come and gone, but Big Blue’s partner awards are still to come. Sure, they are an expected part of just about any vendor’s partner conference, but how’s this for a tip? The rumour is that the nature of the award results are such that press and bloggers covering the Canadian partner space (such as your humble blogger) should definitely make sure they’re in attendance Wednesday night. Hmm… colour me intrigued.

How about you?

Making the trip to PartnerWorld, or sitting out this time? What would you like to find out from IBM at this year’s event? Sound off in the comments below and let us know.