IBM invites Watson to PartnerWorld site

IBM channel chief Marc Dupaquier at PWLC

IBM channel chief Marc Dupaquier at PWLC

LAS VEGAS — For Big Blue partners at this year’s PartnerWorld Leadership Conference here, there’s no doubt that the company’s Watson platform is a very top priority for IBM — from CEO Gini Rometty to channel chief Marc Dupaquier and beyond, it’s rare of an exec to go more than a few sentences without mentioning Watson, cognitive computing, or both.

The company is spending a lot of effort making Watson and cognitive “real” for more of its partners at this year’s PWLC, but it took a big step forward in that Wednesday morning, announcing that on March 1, PartnerWorld Advisor with Watson will go live on the company’s partner portal.

Advisor appears to be a smarter take on bot-based customer service chat, and the company says it will help partners quickly find the information, resources, and help they need through a natural-language chat by voice. Text input is also available for those who are still living in the olden days.

According to Dupaquier, Advisor came about over the last few months, and will be a way to make it easier for partners to get what they need from PartnerWorld. It may also make Dupaquier’s own e-mail inbox a lot easier to read.

“I noticed a very strange pattern – any time any of you can’t find me, you call or e-mail me. And that’s fine. But I got to thinking, there has to be a better way – if you’re reaching out to me, we’re probably not doing a good job of presenting this information to you,” he told conference-goers.

The executive, with the help of a partner and a fellow Big Bluer, provided a demo of how the system will work. First, he gave the partner the chance to ask a question or two, and the partner asked first “How do I work with IBM to drive value for my clients?” and then “Explain a competency.” Both were duly answered by Watson with the appropriate IBM partner marketing spiel.

If those examples seemed lightweight and high-level compared to what partners may actually ask Advisor, IBM Systems chief Tom Rosamilia then joined the demo, asking Watson “What does it take to become a storage specialist in North America,” and Watson quickly responded with all of the requirements in terms of revenues and certifications, as well a a link for more information, or to find the requirements in a different geography. That certainly is more of the kind of actionable information that partners would seem likely to be digging for, and perhaps would find more quickly with Watson’s help.

Assumedly, Watson will also be there to answer other likely partner questions around things like the partner’s own benchmarks within the program, and how to find marketing materials or other supports.

At first blush, Advisor might seem a little gimmicky — a way to shoehorn the all-important Watson name into something likely to be front-and-centre in front of partners on a regular basis. But if done right, it may still be scratching the surface of what cognitive computing can do in terms of streamlining a channel program, but it also has the potential to really help IBM and its partners in an area where Big Blue really needs help — the complexity of its partner programs.

IBM cited simplicity a year ago as a major factor in its rebuild of the PartnerWorld program, changes that went live at the beginning of 2017. But like most large and complex vendors, its programs remain somewhat large and complex as well, so anything IBM can do to make it easier to navigate is likely to be much-appreciated. It doesn’t hurt that it also helps drive home the abilities of the biggest of Bie Blue’s big bets for the future.

And for those who enjoy interacting directly with the channel chief, not to worry. Dupaquier says he’s not disconnecting from partners.

“You can still call me if you want to, but now you have Watson as well,” he quipped.