IBM To Offer Vertical-Market Certifications For Software Resellers

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IBM will expand its software certification program for channel partners to include vertical industries. But unlike the company’s product certifications, the vertical industry certifications won’t be required for resellers.

The company is developing the new “industry authorizations” as part of the Software Value Plus program for IBM software resellers, said Sandy Carter, vice president of the IBM Software Group business partner organization, in an interview this week at the IBM Rational Innovate 2010 conference in Orlando.

While details are still being worked out, Carter said solution providers who get certified in specific vertical markets would receive additional margins, more co-operative marketing assistance and other incentives.

Vertical industry-specific sales are growing about three times as fast as general business IT product sales, Carter said. “This is really exciting because it’s where the industry is going,” she said of solution provider sales.

IBM once allowed anyone to resell its software products under an open distribution model. But starting this year, for many IBM software products, channel partners must have sales and technical staff certified in those products before they can resell them.

While getting certified in specific vertical industries would certainly raise a software reseller’s stature, Carter said such certifications would not be required as are the product certifications. “This will complement the product authorizations,” she said.

Carter said it’s too early to say when the vertical industry program would begin, but said IBM would give partners a year to become certified once the initiative is launched. The timing may also differ from country to country based on the importance of specific industries within each country.

While Carter did not disclose the specific industries IBM would offer certifications in, she noted that since April IBM has offered 130 “virtual summits” or training modules across 17 industries for partners through the IBM PartnerWorld program.

In a speech to IBM Rational business partners on Sunday Edward Abrams, vice president of marketing for IBM general business, cited nine vertical industries that offer growth potential: banking and finance, health care, chemical and petroleum, electronics, energy and utilities, government, retail, telecommunications and transportation.

This year IBM has said the channel is the company’s main vehicle for selling to mid-market customers.

Carter also said that IBM would be updating its software reseller program -- she called it “Software Value Plus 2.0” -- in this year’s fourth quarter through early 2011. That will include adding more IBM software to the list of products that require partner certification.

During a keynote speech to channel partners on Sunday, Carter also noted that IBM now offers partner certification for cloud computing architecture expertise. Carter said IT spending for cloud computing is projected to reach $84 billion by 2012, with more than $30 billion of that spending by mid-market businesses.

At the Innovate conference IBM unveiled new licensing options for its Rational development tools for customers and channel partners.

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