IBM CEO Rometty Offers Her Vision Of Channel Opportunities


In her first address to channel partners since taking charge as IBM president and CEO, Virginia "Ginni" Rometty Wednesday pledged the company's commitment to the channel, promising more resources for co-marketing and skills development and assistance to expand into new IT markets.

And judging by the warm reception Rometty received from the 1,000-plus channel partners attending the IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference in New Orleans, IBM partners are equally ready to pledge their loyalty.

"This was important for me to be here," Rometty said in a 30-minute keynote speech that drew sustained applause from conference attendees. "Our commitment is unwavering. I want you to know how much I value, personally, our partnerships. We work hard -- very hard -- to be unique to you because I know you have choices."

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Rometty assumed the president and CEO posts on Jan. 1, succeeding Sam Palmisano who remains as chairman.

Rometty devoted a great deal of her speech to highlighting new markets and IT growth areas she sees as opportunities for IBM and its business partners. But early on she said the question she has been most frequently asked since becoming CEO is "what are you going to change?"

"What won't change is our commitment to business partners," she said emphatically. "It will grow stronger. You are 20 percent of our revenue. You are 120,000-strong worldwide. I'm relentless about some of this. I'm relentless about us continuing to give you high-value leads, continuing to make it easier to do business [with us], continuing to give you integrated offerings, continuing to take you with us into the future. So number one, unequivocally, our commitment to business partners will only grow."

Partners welcomed Rometty's stay-the-course message. "Ginni's comments were very pro-partner," said Ernie Yenke, president of Lighthouse Computer Services, a Lincoln, R.I.-based IBM partner. "She looks to grow the percentage of IBM business which goes through the channel."

Yenke also praised new rebate incentives IBM announced Tuesday to encourage channel partners to sell more IBM hardware and software combined into more integrated solutions. "It's very encouraging for us," Yenke said of IBM's direction.

Rick Kearney, president and CEO of Mainline Information Systems, a Tallahassee, Fla.-based IBM partner, was among about 100 partners who met with Rometty during a partner dinner Tuesday evening and was impressed with the amount of time she took to chat with every partner.

"She did address my hope that there would be concerted IBM/partner dialogs going forward, including synergistic partnership from global executives all the way to field sales teams to engage and empower us as business partners and jointly deliver relevant, cutting-edge solutions to our customers especially in new markets," Kearney said in an emailed comment after Rometty's keynote.

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