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ARC 2011: Data & Information Management

IBM is this year's Annual Report Card winner in the Data and Information Management category, edging out rival Oracle for the second year and soundly beating Microsoft.

WINNER: IBM

Along the way, it improved its scores across the board in product innovation, channel support and partnership. Last year, while IBM had the overall highest score, it beat out Oracle by just a tenth of a point. And it lost to Oracle in product innovation and to Microsoft on partnership, recording higher scores only in the support criteria.

"IBM has an extremely well-organized partner program," said Mark Kettering, president and CEO of Brightlight Consulting, a Redmond, Wash.-based provider of business analytics and data warehousing services. "They really care about you, not only as a partner, but for the success of your company."

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Brightlight came to IBM by way of IBM's acquisition last November of data warehouse appliance maker Netezza. Brightlight was allied with Netezza, and Kettering acknowledged being worried about how the relationship would fare under IBM. But he said IBM assigned a high-level executive to work with Brightlight and the company has listened to his suggestions for new data and information product bundles.

"I really feel like they embrace us and our creative thinking about how we can fit throughout the IBM ecosystem," Kettering said.

Rob Thomas, vice president of development for IBM's information management operation, cited three things that likely boosted the company's ARC scores. One was the company's efforts in the last 12 to 18 months to increase the number of information management-related product bundles sold through the channel. Second is the channel opportunities offered by the Netezza acquisition. Third is the effort to reduce channel conflict.

IBM's Lab Services, an organization that provides deep technical expertise and product assistance to customers, was increasingly creating sales conflicts with partners and "subcontracting" work to solution providers, according to Thomas. IBM has been "hammering home" the message that partners take the lead.

"We want business partners to lead all SMB services engagements," he said.

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