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Other partners said they see few problems. "It's not a real issue for us," said John McCarthy, COO of Mainline Information Systems, a Tallahassee, Fla.-based solution provider that works with IBM, HP and other IT vendors. "We have not noticed any major delays, usually a day or two. We don't always get the amount of discount we would like, but that's a different story," he joked.
McCarthy, who checked with his sales bid team in response to questions from CRN, said he was told that IBM's response time has improved. "The bulk of our deals require a special bid. From the time that the bid is submitted, it normally takes a few hours to a day before we get a response. It is very rarely more than a day."
"However, it is not uncommon that there is additional information needed," McCarthy continued. "Not sure I can blame IBM to require additional information. This involves IBM sending a note back to the [account executive and support services representative], which means that they have to respond and the process starts over. That is probably what others are referring to regarding turnaround times of multiple days."
"IBM can approve a price within a day as long as it isn't deeply discounted," said the partner who lost a deal because of delays. "Storage [system] sales are often deeply discounted -- 60 percent to 85 percent discounts are not unusual. When a deep discount is required, it often takes days. If it is a cross-brand deal, server and storage sold together, multiple pricers have to work together to agree on a price, [leading to] delay.
"When we know what price is necessary to win the business, it often takes IBM too long to approve that price and we lose the opportunity," he said. "Our competitors have pricing delegation at the field level, therefore they can put the price to win in front of the customer much more quickly than an IBM partner can."
IBM developed the automated bid approval system in consultation with members of its partner advisory board, said Ilse Cilliers, IBM's vice president of Storage and Technology Group channels, North America. She said that "the majority of special bids" today are automatically approved by the system almost immediately. Some bids are special requests or are complex and require management approval, she acknowledged, but said the average time needed to approve those deals is four hours and -- at the most -- 24 hours.
Sometimes the customer prospect requests changes in a deal and Cilliers said those changes are also approved within a maximum of 24 hours. And she said the 24-hour maximum also applies to multi-brand deals. Cilliers said the response time statistics go back to the third quarter of last year.