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IBM Unveils New PartnerWorld Program

Steven Lang
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The old partner program was divided into four separate tracks--Systems and Services, Software, Developers and Personal Systems--that were tailored to IBM brands and involved duplicate offerings, no centralized skills tracking, multiple IT infrastructures/databases and limited cross-brand programs or offerings, Kozel acknowledges.

"If you were a partner in any of those particular tracks, you had to join [PartnerWorld]. But the partners have evolved and grown such that there is a high level of overlap. For example, 40 percent of the partners belonging to the Systems and Services program also belong to another track," Kozel says. "It really was important to break those barriers down."

The new PartnerWorld program is a simplified program with a single membership, a common set of benefits and an integrated IT infrastructure. It is aligned to meet the needs of specific partners--resellers, consultants, integrators and ISVs--and offers a single Web site for access to all benefits. The changes, promoted by partner requests and feedback, will be rolled out next quarter for all but ISVs, who will be able to participate in the new program in the fourth quarter, Kozel says.

The program is based on points. Partners get one point each in three categories--skills or solutions (minimums apply); revenue, with extra points for selling to the SMB market; and customer satisfaction. The more skills your staff has, the more you sell, and the more you satisfy customers (verified by a third party), the more points you accrue and the more benefits you receive. A partner commanding up to six points is considered a member-level partner. Seven or more points qualifies the VAR as an advanced partner, providing an individual holds no more than two skills. Premier partners reap 25 points or more and have an approved joint marketing plan.

"An approved partner plan is a Web-based plan in which the partners tell us, 'My objective is to produce a specific amount of business and here is my marketing activity,' " Kozel explains.

Past those base benefits, for which there are no charge, IBM also offers its PartnerWorld Value Package, an enhanced array of benefits that cost $2,000 and includes training/certification, technical sales support and software downloads, and other benefits, depending on the partner's activity level. Kozel says if a member utilized all those offerings, the entire set of benefits is worth roughly $400,000.

And for its top-tier Premier Business Partner, IBM will offer a wide range of exclusive benefits, such as special marketing benefits and materials, a free client briefing and other briefings, increased IBM software license entitlements and priority support for Premier difference benefits.

The new program will effect 90,000 worldwide IBM partners, 40,000 of which are in North America. In North America, fully 600 of those are Premier partners and 1,200 are Advanced under the existing program. A breakdown of the current PartnerWorld track reveals that in North America 1,500 are for Systems and Services, 7,000 are for Personal Systems, 6,200 are for Software and 26,000 are for Developers.

"I think it's a step in the right direction; it simplifies the process," says Kirk Zaranti, executive vice president of Solution Technology, a $90 million solution provider based in Chicago. "Before, I had to go to four or five different databases to ensure that my company was represented appropriately. [The new program] gives us the ability to maximize our offerings from IBM. If we could simplify incentives of all the programs, it would be a benefit as well."

In the final analysis, Kozel says the new program will be simple and easier, and is designed "to improve relationships with existing partners and to also bring new partners to the fold."

IBM will hold a public Webcast to explain the new PartnerWorld program on Tuesday, April 27, at 10 a.m. ET. Visit PartnerWorld to view the Webcast and access supporting materials.

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