IBM strengthens services practices beyond GSIs with new service track in Partner Plus program

The Service track follows the Sell and Build tracks that went live when Partner Plus was launched last year, and is aimed more at regional GSIs, MSPs and other types of partners that have been doing little or no business with IBM.

Steve Smith GM, IBM Services Partners

IBM has launched the third track in their Partner Plus partner program. The new Service track complements the Sell and Build tracks which were introduced when the new program was unveiled at the beginning of 2023. While large service partners like GSIs had already been working with IBM through Partner Plus, the new track will also provide assistance to smaller service focused partners, including regional systems integrators and MSPs.

The first two tracks, sell and build, were built out first for specific reasons, said Steve Smith GM, IBM Services Partners, who has been at IBM for 25 plus years – basically his entire working life – in software and the cloud, including running IBM’s software business teams in EMEA and then in America.

“The biggest single piece is the sell motion – so we needed to start there,” Smith said. “The next evolution was build, so those were the two that we had ready at launch. We have many GSI partners among our wider service ecosystem. However, they operate across a whole lot of different motions, including sell and build, but primary in services. These partners haven’t been waiting for a service track for us because they have been working with us on other dimensions.”

The Service track is not just directed at the GSIs but also at the smaller and more focused  partners.

“This new track appeals to more niche partners for whom services are the main part of their business,” Smith stated. “We are hoping to engage going forward with those partners whose only model may have been services, like regional services players. We wanted an offer that would be a fit for the entire partner ecosystem

Smith said the Service track has two main areas of enhanced concentration.

“We are Increasing our focus on two things,” he indicated. “One is the depth of technical skills that we bring to them. The second element is about co-creation. We are now extending that to our broader service market through co-creation. This will bring about closer alignment between these partners and IBM. It will also make is easier for us to look at joint go to market with them. We have made some changes in the way that we embed this as well, hard wiring these connections so there will be a lot more strength. This extends a tried and true approach to our service program.”

Smith said that these shifts have changed his job title.

“My title is changing from GM for GSIs to GM for Service Partners, because of the focus on getting increased attraction with partners who have not previously worked with IBM in the past.”

Smith also indicated that in the past, these types of partners had said that IBM was too complex to deal with.

“We have made strong efforts to deal with this, and while we don’t hold the view that we have fixed everything perfectly, and we know that ongoing work is always required, we also know that this is a tough audience, and that the feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Channel news recently has been dominated by changes to VMware’s channel policy since their acquisition by Broadcom, which largely goes against the grain of what partners had been told would happen, and which has created substantial fear and uncertainty and doubt which has the potential to impact many vendors.

“We are not setting up a strategy to handle this,” Smith said. “We are on our own path. The major tenets of our original launch was to simplify and be more transparent and remove the elements that were so complex, it made it hard to understand even how to unlock benefits. We think we made a major step there, and even more in the transparency piece. The thousands of new partners who have joined is testament to our success. We also hope to add many more new partners.”

Smith said that this is the last stage of the initial partner program rollouts.

“We will continue to iterate all the time, but this is the major 2024 announcement,” he stated. “I think in May we will likely have additional announcements to the program, but this is the major ecosystem piece in 2024.”