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CRN: On the programs to incent partners to marry hardware with software, what type of opportunities are they looking at? Where do the traditional partners play with this new program? And, what are your recruitment plans? You're bringing in new partners who might not look like a traditional partner.
Hennessy: We clearly have this dual-pronged approach where a lot of our partners we've been working with for many years ... are moving into these higher-value spaces. CrossView is a great example. They're a partner that's been working with us since 1997 in the retail space. They're adding all the new offerings and capabilities coming out of our smarter commerce strategy and helping clients use analytics to make some fundamental decisions. And, it's really expanded the scope of the offerings that they have and driven up the value that they can provide to their clients. Their customer base has grown over the course of three years because of these new offerings and new capabilities they have.
I think there are a lot of partners like that leveraging [IBM's] smarter planet capabilities to expand the value they can bring to their clients. They are also leveraging a broader piece of the IBM portfolio. If they had been just a hardware partner, many of them are now looking at software and services to bring together a more robust solution to the client. If they were just software, they're now looking at the platform and driving more value.
And, we want to reward partners for that and help them with the investment they need to make to bring those solutions to market. So, we announced very aggressive incentives: If you combine hardware and software, we'll significantly increase the margin that's available to you, an additional 15 points on the software and an additional 5 points on the hardware. By the way, those incentives go up even further when the partners go after very specific solution areas, around analytics, around security, etc. So it's very rich.
So, that's one way we're helping the existing partners move to these higher-value spaces. I'll give you a proof-point on that; and, that is that we track very closely the smarter planet references we have because they are very valuable for our clients and for our teams around the world. We have over 1,000 references on smarter planet, and almost half of them involve business partners. So, it's clear that the partners have embraced these solution areas to deliver more value for their clients.
And then on the recruiting side, we're very active there as well. More and more partners are utilizing these smarter planet solutions, our cloud offerings, our analytics offerings, the richness of the offerings that we're bringing into the marketplace. Last year, as an example, we added about 1,200 partners around the world. So far this year, we've recruited 600 new MSP partners. So there's lots of recruiting going on as well. The channel is growing quickly for us, revitalizing and getting very vibrant.
NEXT: Partner Responses to Incentives, Role Of Next-Gen Providers