IBM Going Deeper With VentureTech

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Palm Springs, Calif. -- Just six months after IBM formally engaged Ingram Micro's VentureTech Network (VTN) to hash out ways the company can do a better job helping solution providers make money on Big Blue solutions, the company returned to update members on its progress, while setting the stage for a new services initiative that will create partnering opportunities between VTN members and the $35 billion IBM Global Services (IGS) division.

"There is a tremendous opportunity for us to harness the power of what you have here," said Frank Vitagliano, vice president of distribution channels management for IBM, in a presentation Friday morning to VTN members during the VentureTech network 2002 Fall Invitational in Palm Springs. "These kinds of investments are critical to us, and we take them very seriously."

Vitagliano told the audience of more than 400 people that IBM has already come through on a number of initiatives that it promised to the members back in May. Among those are setting up a dedicated team of IBM business development managers, improving the fill rates of IBM product through Ingram Micro and increasing selling opportunities and training for VTN members in emerging areas like wireless.

"In May we came up with a partnership program with Ingram Micro's VentureTech to provider coverage, education, certification and training to teach VTN members how to be more profitable selling IBM products," said Vitagliano, noting that since the announcement more than 60 wireless certifications have been granted to VTN members. "But the feedback we got in May from VentureTech was that they needed to expand their knowledge, and we needed to do a better job providing coverage for them."

But what excited the VTN membership most was a promise from Vitagliano that IBM and Ingram Micro are working out a pilot program that will create new services opportunities for VTN members by allowing them to partner with IGS on small and medium business engagements. The program, which is still in the early stages of development, will leverage Ingram Micro's Service Network to let IGS subcontract IBM-trained VentureTech Network members for SMB engagements.

The news was met with a standing ovation from VTN partners, many of whom have been asking for ways to leverage IBM's mammoth services organization to help expand their business opportunities. In fact, the impetus for such a program, said Ingram Micro executives, came during a roundtable discussion at the last VentureTech event when solution providers asked Vitagliano to find ways to help them partner with IGS.

"I have had every mid-range distributor pounding on my door to do something like this, but we're putting them on hold because we're starting right here," said Vitagliano. "You guys have an assemblage of services capabilities that no one else has."

Bob Stegner, vice president of channels and U.S. marketing at Ingram Micro, said the growing relationship with IBM is important because it demonstrates to the members the fact that technology vendors recognize their value and want to get closer to them. "It's extremely important to show the channel that when a vendor makes a commitment, they stick to it and roll it along to the next stage," he said.

While Vitagliano said the details of the services program are still being worked out between IGS and Ingram Micro teams and a formal announcement will be made by IGS at a later date, he said IBM's two main goals in leveraging VentureTech Network solution providers are to improve its services capability and to increase its access into the lucrative SMB space. "We definitely need to improve our services capability in the SMB market," he said.

And in addition to the specific skills of its members, the most important thing the VTN provides Big Blue's services arm is an organized network of experienced solution providers and an already-existing infrastructure that can aggregate their skills and manage things like training, lead-management and support. "The real selling point for IBM is the fact that Ingram Micro can give them the one-touch system that we already have in place to oversee our network of 400 solution providers," said Stegner.

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