IBM adding SaaS to Smarter Commerce partner opportunities

Melinda Matthews IBM

Melinda Matthews, director of industry solutions partnering at IBM.

Since IBM opened up its Smarter Commerce initiative to partners, it has signed up some 480 solution providers worldwide.

But to date, the channel has only been involved in on-premise deployments of business software from recent IBM acquisitions including Cognos, SPSS, Netizza, Coremetrics, Sterling Commerce and ILOG.

That’s changing, as Big Blue has announced a pilot program that will open up cloud-based versions of some of those business applications to partners.

To be fair, a lot of it is already going on – Melinda Matthews, director of industry solutions partnering at IBM says that “at least 50 per cent” of the company’s partners in the space have been recommending IBM software cloud-based software offerings to customers. They just haven’t been getting paid for it.

With the launch of the pilot program, that’s about to change for the better.

The new program is designed to provide an “influencer fee” (a percentage of the annual contract value signed as a result of a partner’s recommendation) to the partner. IBM declined to specify exactly what that percentage is, but did say that the fees were designed to make sure partners get a return for their investment in understanding and advocating for a particular solution.

And why have so many partners been doing this already? In large part, Matthews said, it’s because that’s what they’re used to doing, particularly when it comes to partners who came into the IBM fold when the company they were partnered with was snapped up by Big Blue.

“We’ve acquired a lot of partner who are used to selling in the SaaS space, so we needed to put something in place very quickly to address market growth opportunities and satisfy those partners we picked up through software acquisitions,” Matthews said. “It also gives us the framework to recruit net-new partners with a simple program when SaaS is viable commercial possibility.”

The program is slated to debut by early November, and will run through the end of 2012. It will be accessible to partners under the Software Plus designation.

While on-premise still represents the majority of Smarter Commerce opportunities, Matthews said there are growing opportunities for solution providers hosting their own cloud-based implementation of the various software, as well as for offering versions hosted by IBM or by third parties. The pilot program will make sure solution providers have all three options at their disposal, but it does stop short of covering all options for a partner.

Specifically, it only addresses the interests of the “influencer,” and not really the reseller or integrator cloud roles. Matthews stopped short of providing any details, but did suggest that IBM Software as a whole would have a strategy that looks to cover partners’ cloud-based bases in the near future.