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Callahan said the company is committed to deal protection and is rewarding partners that boost their employees' skills with increased margins. IBM also revamped its portal site, offering a robust dashboard, management tools and leads in one place.
"Just this year alone we've increased the resources focused on our channels by over 50 percent," Callahan said.
IBM is being forced to offset its declining hardware business by focusing less on physical processing and storage equipment and more on delivering cloud software and service offerings. The company recently said it would furlough employees in its hardware Systems and Technology Group for a week later this month as a cost-cutting measure, while it works on retooling its business for cloud-based solutions. IBM recently won a $1 billion contract to provide cloud computing services to the U.S. Department of the Interior, which will rely on the company for cloud computing technologies, services and hosting, IBM said.
Ira Gersfeld, president of IBM partner Computer Resource Technology, Syosset, N.Y., said he has seen his IBM business rapidly change, with hardware moving to the background and services taking a greater role in driving revenue. Gersfeld said, however, that he isn't ready to fully embrace the cloud, instead investing in skilled experts who can perform managed services and consulting work.
"We've been seeing the nature of the business change rapidly in recent years," said Gersfeld. "Every partner is charting their own path."
Part of a successful strategy is for partners to work together, said Callahan, who added IBM is increasingly bringing together partners that excel in different areas. IBM's three lines of businesses -- hardware, software and services -- each has dedicated channel reps and programs and rolls up into an overall business partner organization, he said.