IBM Hands Training Over to Partners

Bob McDonald, vice president of IBM Training

Bob McDonald, vice president of IBM Training

IBM Corp. is aiming to triple the number of partners and customers taking training around its systems and software offerings by handing the reins for all of its training efforts over to a quartet of partners, including a pair of its value-added distribution partners.

From now on, all of the company’s educational offerings will be offered through traditional education partners Global Knowledge and LearnQuest, as well as IBM disties Arrow Enterprise Computing Solutions and Avnet Technology Solutions.

Big Blue has historically maintained sole control of the education elements around its hardware and software offerings, but delivered its curricula through training partners. While IBM intends to continue to offer the core content for training around its products, under the new system, its training partners will have a great deal of latitude to expand, contract, and otherwise customize training offerings for IBM partners and their customers.

“Rather than mandating what can and can’t be trained, we’re giving them the latitude to go beyond what IBM thinks the market requires to what the market says it really requires,” said Bob McDonald, vice president of IBM Training. “We made a conscious decision to find a way to further leverage the channel in delivering education.”

By doing so, Big Blue feels it will be able to triple the number of student training dates it delivers per year by 2015 or sooner. The company will still retain control of IBM-centric certifications, although the requirements and testing will be delivered by its partners.

While handing over training to Global Knowledge and LearnQuest may seem obvious, given their focus and raison d’etre, the addition of the two distributors shows how far value-added distributors have come from their pick-pack-and-ship days and how completely vendors like IBM recognize that change.

“Their reach, their capabilities, and their investments are very much in line with what we need to get the growth and acceleration of skills in the marketplace that we’re seeking,” McDonald said of Arrow and Avnet. “They have a very established understanding of IBM, of our business, and how to service these technologies. It’s a natural extension for them.”

Matt Fox, senior director of education services with Avnet Services, said his company will be offering training in a number of formats from online on-demand to hybrid classroom and virtual trainer-led sessions, through to full custom training sessions for larger customers and solution providers. Avnet intends to supplement its courseware by offering “virtual office hours” with Avnet’s IBM technical experts who can help students dive deeper and answer specific questions.

Avnet will also allow partners access to the training offerings in a number of ways, giving solution providers access to resell either specific courses or Avnet Training Credits, which customers can redeem for any of the distributor’s training options. Avnet serves as a major training partner for a variety of vendors, including VMware, Juniper, and F5 Networks.

“The whole package [solution providers offer customers] should include how they’re going to enable customers to be successful long-term with their new technology,” Fox said.

The distribution launched its Avnet Academy Web site in support of its training efforts earlier this month, and currently offers Big Blue’s training in the U.S. and Canada, as well as the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland. Fox said the company plans to take its efforts worldwide “within a year’s time.”

If the partners can achieve IBM’s goal of tripling the number of people taking its training (a goal on which McDonald said he’s “pretty bullish”) the new strategy will be a big winner for IBM, but perhaps even more so for Arrow and Avnet, both of whom have been pushing deeper into multi-vendor training as part of ramping up their professional services capabilities. Training has, to one degree or another, been part of the mix for distributors for some time, but the experience gained from administering a good part of the training efforts for a vendor the size of IBM will help the distributors refine their education practices and give them the chance further expand their training reach.

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