New IBM Partner Charter Promises Channel Commitment

The new charter and its six guiding principles, which will be accompanied by a letter from CEO Sam Palmisano, also seeks to assure solution providers of IBM's commitment to the channel during these turbulent economic times, said Rich Hume, general manager of global business partners, in an interview.

"We're making it clear for our partner base what they can expect from us and that we will execute against these principles," Hume said. "It's important because of the economic situation we're facing and because of the Smarter Planet initiative. And we're making it very clear that partners are the principal route for us to reach the midmarket."

IBM channel partners see the new charter as more than a piece of paper.

"I think it's going to help foster good partner relationships," said Bob Verola, CEO of Vicom Computer Service, a Farmingdale, N.Y.-based IBM channel partner. "It's a renewing, a revitalization of IBM's commitment back to the partners. I think that's huge."

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"IBM is a company that's very good at doing what they say they are going to do," agreed Joe Mertens, president of Sirius Computer Solutions, a San Antonio, Texas-based IBM partner. "I have every confidence this will be more than just marketing."

"This isn't a marketing piece; it's a statement of fundamental principles," said Bob Moffat, senior vice president and group executive, IBM Systems & Technology Group, in an e-mail interview. "Within the past year, we've heard from many of our partners around the world about how much they value these principles as a commitment to our ongoing relationship. We live in turbulent times, and that commitment -- as well as the investment it represents -- means a lot to them."

The six guiding principles in the revised charter are: "IBM business partners are vital to IBM's business; Our relationship is a collaboration of equals; We invest in IBM business partners' success; We strive to provide the industry's best business partner experience, in all respects; We work with our business partners to seize the opportunities presented by a smarter planet; and, We ground our relationships in the core values of IBMers.

In his letter, Palmisano cites the economy as one reason for revising the charter. "This is not simply a cyclical downturn. On the other side of the present turmoil, a very different world is taking shape," he wrote.

Hume said IBM has sought feedback from partners over the last year while it reworked the charter, and that Palmisano personally reviewed it. "We're making this very clear that partners are the principal route for us to the midmarket."

Hume said the core business principles of the charter remain the same. The most significant changes relate to IBM's Smarter Planet initiative, a bid to position IBM and its partners for a world where IT and cloud computing permeate everything from "smart" electric grids to traffic management systems.

"IBM and its partners are in a unique position to capture a significant share of the more than $3 trillion in economic stimulus being created by governments around the world," Moffat said. "In the U.S. alone, President Obama's $787 economic stimulus package includes more than $30 billion in technology-driven efforts to improve and modernize our nation's infrastructure around key areas such as health care modernization, smart grid and expanding broadband networks."

Mertens at Sirius pointed to IBM's recently announced Dynamic Infrastructure Specialty program, a component of the Smarter Planet initiative, as an example of how IBM is preparing select channel partners for such trends as virtualization and server consolidation. "The midmarket needs these technologies as much as enterprise customers," he said.

Verola at Vicom thinks the charter also sends a signal to IBM employees about the importance of the channel. "Maybe it will help the skeptical IBM sales reps believe in us a little more, which would be a good thing."