IBM unifies channel management, resources

IBM global channel chief Marc Dupaquier

IBM global channel chief Marc Dupaquier

LAS VEGAS – For the first time in the company’s history, IBM will have one face in front of its partners, as Big Blue introduced a pan-IBM “One Channel” partner program at its Partnerworld Leadership Conference here Tuesday morning.

Under One Channel, all IBM partner activities will roll up under global channel chief Marc Dupaquier, with leaders in each geographic region across the world, and across all seven of IBM’s top market priorities – Watson, security, cloud, services, systems, commerce, and analytics. The goal, Dupaquier said, is to break down silos between IBM’s business units and present a single front to the company’s partners.

“For the firs time, all IBM people working with resellers, ISVs, MSPs, Sis and other partners are under one system. We have people under each business unit, but they’re all part of the One Channel team management system,” Dupaquier said.

Under the effort, the company will align channel go-to-market, enablement, marketing, and incentives across all business units.

“We move from seven different flavours of channel managers for analytics, into only one broad analytics play in the channel,” Dupaquier said. “We have more rich coverage, and cover more partners.”

While there will be specialized people on the team in each of the seven major market opportunities, the program will also include some managers who look across the IBM portfolio to provide the “big picture” across the brand.

Mike Gerentine, vice president of global channel marketing at IBM, said that under One Channel, the company will greatly expand the number of “Business Transformation Inititiatve” workshops it runs with its partners. Debuted almost a year ago, BTI workshops see IBM provide consulting services to help partners figure out how to transform their business for new market opportunities, and identify the right new markets for them. IBM will run three times as many such sessions, which it values at about $5,000 per partner organization, in 2015 as it did in 2014, Gerentine said.

“It allows them to get focus, and as they grow, they’re seeing 20 to 50 per cent more revenue than they were seeing before doing the workshop,” Gerentine said.

Over the course of the year, IBM will work to consolidate many channel-facing roles and resources into the One channel structure, and use the efficiencies gained from that effort to boost the number of dollars flowing through to partners, Gerentine said. Already, structure has changed so that more people responsible for channel programs, incentives, and enablement report ultimately into global channel chief Dupaquier.

“You’re going to see an evolution on incentives, on education, on co-marketing. Consolidation is going to occur, but it’s going to take a while,” Gerentine said.

The One Channel structure was largely enabled by the sales of the volume-focused system x x86 business to Lenovo last year. With that transaction, then-IBM partners who were largely focused on the volume side of the business transited out of PartnerWorld and into Lenovo’s partner program. As a result, while IBM partners might serve a variety of customer profiles with a variety of specializations in a variety of market, there is one underlying thread across all of those partners: a focus on value.

“If [partners] were being a fulfillment channel for x86, I’ not sure they’re going to transition well into this world where people are looking for partner skills – the V-A part of VAR and VAD,” said IBM systems boss Tom Rosamilia.

Dupaquier acknowledged that those partner transitioning to Lenovo meant that the overall percentage of channel business in IBM’s mix decreased between 2013 and 2014. However, in each of the areas that remained in IBM’s offering mix, Dupaquier said the channel component grew by between one and three points, and that overall, IBM’s channel business is the fastest-growing part of IBM. Dupaquier said he’s not bothered by the short-term dip in the percentage of IBM’s overall sales through the channel.

“Now I’m growing participation again, but in the value space,” he said, adding that his goal is to again grow partner participation by between two and three per cent of IBM’s revenues across all seven of the company’s specialization areas.

Meanwhile, IBM partners who left PartnerWorld to become Lenovo partners with the x86 business selloff, are seeing their own version of the “one channel” message, with Lenovo on a mission to integrate its legacy partner program with the System x channel partner programs in an effort it labels “One Lenovo, One Channel.”