5 Ways IBM Is Looking To Empower Partners


IBM has dramatically revamped how it works with partners through an extensive modernization of its channel program.

That initiative took a leap forward in April with a major restructuring that boosted incentives for embedding solutions like cloud and artificial intelligence, and simplified the resell motion, especially across the Software-as-a-Service portfolio.

IBM's approach to engaging partners would be unrecognizable to anyone who hasn't been paying attention for even a year, channel chief John Teltsch and other IBM channel leaders told CRN during a conversation about how the company is empowering its partners.

And IBM continues to improve the framework through which it is nurturing a broader ecosystem that includes born-in-the-cloud solution providers and developers, Teltsch said.

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"The client is driving a different agenda with our partners. They're very schooled on what kind of integrated offerings they want from vendor and partner," Teltsch said.

"It's all about cloud, it's all about data, it's all about AI. We have to understand our clients, and the ecosystem has to understand our skills, capabilities, and offerings, on-prem or in the cloud."

Embedding Success

IBM has prioritized efforts to help partners embed its technology into their own solutions, John Teltsch, IBM's channel chief, told CRN.

"As the market continues to change, drive these solution-based offerings, partners need to leverage our capabilities and content," Teltsch said.

That could involve using APIs to access cognitive solutions from the IBM Watson platform, or tapping IBM Cloud Private capabilities from the hybrid cloud organization, he said.

"We're very focused on artificial intelligence and the openness of our APIs and the secure capabilities you can build into your solutions," Teltsch told CRN.

Enabling Alliances

IBM has made it easier for solution providers to launch and scale practices.

A year ago, it was still challenging to enter the IBM ecosystem because of its size and complexity, said IBM channel chief John Teltsch.

"To onboard themselves into the IBM company as a net new partner has completely and dramatically changed from 12 months ago," Teltsch said.

Born-in-the-cloud solution providers and development shops were also reluctant to use IBM capabilities because they thought of the company in outdated terms—as a PC and server vendor.

IBM has worked to change that perception by highlighting its current portfolio and the opportunities to leverage those capabilities.

"We've been looking to simplify the program, our offerings, so a new generation of partners can embed our products in their solutions," Teltsch told CRN.

Reach and Range

Understanding "the reach and range of the capabilities of the IBM portfolio" is of tremendous benefit to partners, IBM channel chief John Teltsch told CRN.

Big Blue's product line is unique in that it encompasses hardware, software, and services, he said.

"We have a rich, rich set of offerings," Teltsch said, including a broad set of artificial intelligence capabilities made available through the Watson platform.

IBM has developed extensive tooling to help partners tap the potential of that portfolio, Teltsch said.

Rich Incentives

IBM offers rich margins to resellers, IBM channel chief John Teltsch told CRN.

But for partners with different business models, including those embedding IBM technology, Big Blue has developed other incentives to boost their profitability.

"If we have new partners that want to only embed our capabilities in their solutions, we have a set of capabilities that gives them a way to monetize quickly time-to-value, take our solutions and deliver to the marketplace and make money," Teltsch said.

Brand Trust

IBM's brand goes a long way with enterprise customers.

"Trust of the IBM brand, our products, offerings, capabilities, and the people behind the IBM brand, is invaluable," IBM channel chief John Teltsch told CRN.

Dorothy Copeland, vice president of global business partners for North America, said that's especially true for partners embedding IBM technology.

"They like the fact that they can say embedded in their solution is IBM technology," Copeland said. "It creates a lot of trust with their clients."