Q&A: IBM's Moffat Says Partner Charter Critical During Economic Transformation

In an e-mail interview with Channelweb.com, Bob Moffat, senior vice president and group executive, IBM Systems & Technology Group, explained why the revised charter is important to channel partners today and how it relates to IBM's recent Smarter Planet and Dynamic Infrastructure Specialty initiatives.

Why is IBM updating its Business Partner Charter and why now?

It has been almost 15 years since IBM issued its first Business Partner Charter, so it was time to take a fresh look at it, particularly in the face of the global economic difficulties. We have seen dramatic changes in the world, with our clients and in our industry. These changes result in major implications for our Business Partner relationships and what is driving a need for this change.

IBM's business partners make tremendous investments in IBM. And now our mutual investments are aimed at capturing a unique opportunity -- to take the lead in changing how the world literally works.

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IDC estimates that by 2012, $122 billion will be spent annually on information technology integrated with physical systems. They also believe the move to smart infrastructure has the potential to create a whole new ecosystem in IT.

So we are committing to our long-standing relationships, and also to providing our partners with the right skills, resources and incentives to capture growth in the 21st century.

Why is this charter important to IBM channel partners? What makes this more than just "marketing collateral"?

This isn't a marketing piece; it's a statement of fundamental principles. 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 new guiding principles not only reinforce the important role our partners play to IBM's vitality but also help define the opportunity we have to go to market together to lead these transformation opportunities.

How do these changes relate to the current economic upheaval?

The current environment represents a historic shift in the global economy. Over the past two decades, the world has become "smaller" and "flatter." But it turns out that being globally connected is not enough. It doesn't prevent globally systemic breakdowns, because connectivity, by itself, doesn't make your systems smarter. The current economic crisis is just the latest demonstration of that. Over the first decade of this new century, we've had a series of wake-up calls on the challenges, as well as the opportunities, of global integration " from climate change, to supply chains for food and medicine, to security, and now in our financial systems.

Now, however, a shift to more instrumented, interconnected and intelligent infrastructure is starting. And that is opening up both near-term opportunities -- as businesses seek to cut costs, drive efficiency and productivity, preserve capital and create competitive advantage -- and long-term strategies as our clients position themselves to emerge from the present crisis stronger.

In particular, 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. In the U.S. alone, President Obama's $787 billion 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 healthcare modernization, smart grid and expanding broadband networks.

What concrete steps will IBM take to back up these principles?

As the global economy continues to shift, there is a mandate for businesses to leverage technology to bring a new level of intelligence to how they operate. The right infrastructure investments can provide the stimulus for societal and business transformation, and channel partners are in a unique position to introduce new concepts for IT efficiency and influence sales. IBM is focused on delivering complete solutions to our partners that will enable them to meet these business and IT requirements. This includes helping them develop skills and competencies in areas like virtualization, consolidation, and energy efficiency, as well as delivering a new category of services and technology that can manage the convergence of digital and physical infrastructure through areas like business analytics that help clients uncover real insight, in real time.

In November, we launched the Dynamic Infrastructure Specialty program that helps our partners meet these growing requirements our clients demand. Later this year, we will open new Innovation Centers in Romania, Philippines and Vietnam, expanding the current network of more than 43 IBM centers worldwide, in addition to the more than 200 centers that are run by our business partners. These centers provide our partners access to free training courses, consulting services and a comprehensive technical infrastructure to build sales, marketing and technology skills to help clients. And those are just a couple of examples of the support we provide for our partners -- and of how we are responding to important market dynamics and industry trends.

While I generally understand IBM's Smarter Planet initiative, can you provide a few concrete examples of steps (product-wise, sales-wise) IBM is taking.

IBM has a major effort underway focused on enabling our resellers to lead these transformational conversations with our clients that is focused on bringing a new level of intelligence to their business models and existing IT infrastructures.

As part of these discussions, we have aligned our Smarter Planet agenda against key industry issues that are most pressing for our clients, and span across multiple industries.

This includes, "New Intelligence" which aims to provide organizations with the ability to leverage a wealth of information to make more intelligent choices; "Green and Beyond" responds to industry demand for greener products, technologies and services, which has opened up the best emerging market opportunities since the Internet boom of the early 1990's; and, "Dynamic Infrastructure," which represents the pressing needs from our clients to modernize their IT infrastructures that have become difficult to manage, inflexible and costly.

Specifically, IBM has delivered new software and services that enable organizations to design and implement IT systems that centrally manage and monitor an entire industry infrastructure, enabling greater performance of both traditional assets such as manufacturing robotics equipment as well as emerging technologies like "smart meters" and RFID.

How does this new partner charter fit with IBM's Smarter Planet initiative? What role do you see IBM's channel partners playing in the Smarter Planet initiative?

Both the new charter and the Smarter Planet strategy are responses to major changes in the world. We are refocusing and renewing these essential relationships in ways directly analogous to how we have refocused and renewed IBM's business strategies, ways of operating and core values.

Even in today's economic climate, clients are willing to invest in information technology if it helps them address their immediate productivity challenges and at the same time prepare themselves for what lies on the other side of the current downturn. Smarter Planet does both.

For our 100,000 business partners worldwide, Smarter Planet is about engaging clients in these kinds of higher-value discussions. It helps our partners to identify the value that they can bring to a client's entire enterprise, acting as a true consultant and trusted advisor.

The systems that we are working to transform via Smarter Planet -- from transportation, to energy, to oil, to finance, to food and so on -- are themselves "managed" by vast ecosystems. No one entity or industry or government controls these global systems. So, addressing their needs -- building Smarter Planet solutions -- inherently requires assembling broad, heterogeneous networks and value chains, reaching across multiple industries and regions, and spanning large and small enterprises, national governments and local communities. Our business partners are essential to that.