IBM brings partners into Smarter Commerce initiative

Melinda Matthews IBM

Melinda Matthews, worldwide director, industry solutions, business partners, IBM

IBM is looking to get partners selling across its lineup of business analytics software with the announcement of new incentives around its Smarter Commerce products.

Smarter Commerce is a brand for a variety of IBM’s business software acquisitions over the last few years, including Cognos, SPSS, Netizza, Coremetrics, Seterling Commerce, SPSS and ILOG. IBM sees Smarter Commerce as a $20 billion marketing opportunity, and has recently invested more than $2.5 billion in purchases in this space.

And to get partners selling, it’s offering partners who get trained, get certified and get selling a 50 per cent back-end rebate on top of existing up-front margins.

“[Smarter Commerce] is great news not only for IBM partners, but also for those business partners we’ve acquired along the way,” said Melinda Matthews, worldwide director of industry solutions for business partners at IBM.”

“Those partners have been trying to figure out where they belong, and that’s what Smarter Commerce does for them – it figures out where their skills fit into the niche, and offers them development and enablement.”

To qualify for the hefty back-end rebate, partners have to go through Big Blue’s Software Value Plus program. To qualify for that program, partners have to have two technical and one sales certification. On top of that, partners will need to pass sales mastery tests in three of those technology areas covered under Smarter Commerce.

Partners who do make it to the Smarter Commerce for Business Partners will get the aforementioned 50 per cent rebate, sales and enablement tools as well as a dedicated relationship manager from Big Blue, and zero per cent financing for solutions through IBM Global Financing.

The program is open to all types of IBM Software partners, including resellers, ISVs, hardware partners, POS partners, software implementers and integrators.

The program was announced to partners in Europe last week, where Matthews said it generated “amazing buzz.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing how our Canadian partners gravitate towards this,” she said.

It’s part of a bid by Big Blue to get partners out of their comfort zones. Matthews said that as a result of the drive towards specialization, as well as other factors including broad opportunities within a given focus stemming from mobility and social business, many partners are sticking to their knitting.

“I believe right now, there are, across the channel, probably only 50 partners globally that have talked the talk” across the Smarter Commerce portfolio. “People are really staying in their niches.”

Of course, the company knows it won’t be able to coax all of its business partners into cross-selling environments. Because of that, Matthews said IBM is eyeing opportunities to create connections among more specialized partners to facilitate complete solutions for customers. That will start with more ad hoc connections and informal networking opportunities amongst Smarter Commerce partners, but will soon evolve into virtual get-togethers perhaps even a program around brokering partner-to-partner connections down the road.

“We plan on being informal at first, and then get more formal as we get to know which partners are the go-to partners in certain areas,” Matthews said.

Big Blue also announced the Smarter Commerce Solution Development Initiative, which encourages partners to certify on specific vertical solutions. The first targets for the program include retail, banking, telcos, insurance and consumer products.