IBM rethinks partnering approach with new IBM Partner Plus program

The new program is designed to enhance partner enablement as an increasingly broad partner ecosystem pursues IBM’s strategic focus on the hybrid cloud and AI.

Kate Woolley, General Manager Ecosystem, IBM

Today, IBM is announcing the launch of the IBM Partner Plus program, which remakes their old PartnerWorld partner program into a single integrated program that focuses on the hybrid cloud. It also does so in a manner designed to be simple for partners to Work with. The new program, which goes live in stages over the next six months, is being accompanied by other changes, including most of IBM’s direct accounts  being transitioned to the partner ecosystem.

“IBM as a company has three key priorities,” said Kate Woolley, General Manager Ecosystem, IBM. “One is our hybrid cloud and AI [Artificial Intelligence], on our open tech platform that addresses a $1 trillion market. It is the foundation of everything we are doing. Secondly, we are transforming our Go-to-Market to get things into hands of clients faster. And third, we are promoting a thriving open ecosystem.”

That IBM ecosystem includes tens of thousands of partners of all types.

“We are meeting clients where they are at,” Woolley said. “As companies committed to growing and investing in the IBM ecosystem, partners want simplicity and transparency in everything they do with us. Based on this, we are  launching IBM Partner Plus. It is a single integrated program, which replaces Partner World and covers all partner types, with a simplified path, which we build hand-in-hand with partners.”

The key tenets of the new program are how to make sure that partners are an extension of IBM, and to provide competitive incentives, marketing and demand generation support.

The program builds on the release announced in October badging and selling enablement materials to partners, which provides partners with access to the same internal training IBM employees get, and does so free or charge. To date, it has led to more than 15,000 partner enrollments in sales and technical badges.

“We have also enhanced the IBM Partner Portal so that it consolidates all deal registration and incentives, and tracks all expertise globally,” Woolley said. “The program now also prioritizes progression through the tiers to unlock additional incentives and Go-to-Market support. There is a simple incentive stack across software and infrastructure that provides a clear line of sight into how partners’ decisions impact incentives. The proficiency badges are tied to incentives, giving partners access to a new demand generation engine.”

The tier requirements are very specific to particular partner types.

“There is a very clear line of sight to progression through the tiers,” Woolley stated. “Sell and service partners are measured by the achievement of proficiency badges as well as revenue. Builder partners’ achievements are measured by the achievement of validated solutions plus revenue.”

Onboarding for new partners has also been improved.

“We are also launching a new partner Accelerator, which enables partners to join in one day and helps them get onboarded,” Woolley said. “The Partner Accelerator provides specific support for partners during their first six months in the program.

The program classifies partners by standard metallic tiers – Silver, Gold and Platinum – which each which unlock specialized financial, Go-to-Market support and education benefits. Woolley said that they expect the number of Platinum partners to be in the hundreds. Partners who do not yet meet the Silver requirements are accepted in the program as Registered partners.

“We want simplicity and predictability,” said Bo Gebbie, President of IBM partner, Evolving Solutions. “We have been involved in the design process over the last 8-9 months, and I think they really heard our point of view. The new program allows us to help our sellers upskill and expand our focus around hybrid cloud and where our technical ecosystem is going. Having a uniform program around marketing and skills around hardware, software and services is important. We know what we will earn and when we will earn it.”

IBM is also moving most of their direct accounts to partners.

“We are moving from having thousands of direct accounts to several hundred house accounts,” Woolley said. “IBM resources will be moved from supporting house accounts to supporting the IBM ecosystem.”

The new program is being formally launched today, although there will be a six month period before the new rules fully kick in,

“We are putting partners in tiers based on where they are today in order for them to get the skilling they need to progress through the tiers,” Woolley said. “The new incentive stack will start in April and the co-marketing and co-generation programs will start in July.”