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IBM hardware resellers say they've seen progress in the company's efforts to shorten the amount of time it takes to approve discounted deals negotiated by partners. But they'd like to see more.
The resellers' observations come after approval times had stretched out to days and even weeks, according to partners, including one who said he lost a deal because of approval delays.
"We compete with EMC, HP, Dell and NetApp in almost every deal. Our competitors are able to deliver discounted proposals in hours," said an IBM reseller who asked that he not be identified. "IBM resellers have to wait days and frequently weeks to get a price approval. We had a PureSystems proposal in the seven-figure range, which took four weeks to get approved."
"We lost one PureSystems deal because of delayed pricing approval," he said.
An IBM executive, responding to the complaints, maintained that IBM developed an automated system that approves the majority of discounted deals, also known as "special bid pricing," almost immediately. And special bids that require more scrutiny are being approved within an average of four hours and a maximum of 24 hours.
IBM is in a hard fight with Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle and other competitors that sell server and storage hardware. Given that IBM's worldwide unit server share dropped 14.4 percent in the first quarter, according to preliminary data from Gartner, the company can't afford to lose any deals.
Partners say part of the problem is because IBM requires that special bid pricing deals for IBM servers (PureSystems, Power Systems and System x) and storage systems be approved at higher management levels compared with competitors that approve such deals at the field level. Delays also occur when complex deals include more than one brand, such as IBM's System x, Power Series and PureSystems servers, which require approvals from each product operation.
"I actually believe it has gotten better. But it hasn't gotten to where it needs to be," said another channel partner who also requested anonymity. He said as recently as six months ago deal registrations and discounted bids "always came back with questions. And that elongates the process." He also said deals involving more than one brand had to be cleared by managers at each brand "and that's a pain."