IBM goes for value with new PartnerWorld program

IBM global channel chief Marc Dupaquier

IBM global channel chief Marc Dupaquier

ORLANDO – IBM has joined the ranks of vendors moving from a channel program that’s about volume to one that’s about partner value-add.

Big Blue announced the dramatic shift in the orientation of its PartnerWorld channel program, set to take place in January 2017, at its PartnerWorld Leadership Conference here. Global channel chief Marc Dupaquier said the change in the program is designed to recognize a change that’s already happened in the company’s partner base.

“For many years, the tracks we had were very much product-centric. Our partners were taking a certification path aligned to our product,” Dupaquier said. “But in fact, the value the partner was bringing was not about product mastery, it was about everything they do on top.”

As a result, the new version of PartnerWorld will be based on partner competencies and solution areas, with focus on the big areas around which Big Blue is building its business – cloud, analytics, and cognitive computing. Dupaquier said the program is about “evolving the way we’re building the skills of our partners,” and helping partners “understand how to invest to be relevant in the future.”

Details of the new program have not been completely finalized, but Dupaquier said the company is sitting on 44 competencies at the moment. That number, though, may shift up or down over time based on changing market priorities, and the levels of interest in each competency. Each Big Blue partner will be presented details on where they’ll fit into the new PartnerWorld program over the next few months, he said, as well as a roadmap on how to most easily advance through the tiers of the new program, which expands to four levels: Registered, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

“My goal is simple: to move more partners to higher levels,” Dupaquier said.

The new program will roll out in January of next year, and be fully implemented by June.

As well as the solutions competency fields, the new program will require partner to document customer satisfaction, and the two top tiers of the program will be closely gated by both competencies acquired and customer satisfaction achieved.

“An extremely large partner without the right competencies and without the right customer sat will never be Platinum” Dupaquier said.

However, the company isn’t completely abandoning revenue in recognition of the program. There will still be revenue levels required at each tier, the importance of those numbers will just be downplayed in the new program. Dupaquier also announced that revenue levels will vary on a country-by-country basis, an acknowledgement that a very large partner in some markets simply doesn’t reach the same levels of revenues as a very large partner in other markets.

With the change, IBM joins the ranks of vendors stratifying partners based on their solutions set knowledge and expertise instead of simply on numbers of boxes moved. This, of course, is hardly a new idea in channel programs, but one that works well when a vendor, as IBM does in this case, is oriented more towards in-depth customer solutions than sheer unit sales.