IBM Exec Preaches To The Choir At PartnerWorld


"Our strategy is unchanged. We focus on your profitability and growth, help you reach markets with Express solutions, PartnerWorld services and new education offerings. We're teaming on new services opportunities, expanding managed services portfolio and will deliver services offerings with you," Atkins, general manager of IBM Global Business Partners, told several thousand partners gathered at the event.

This year, IBM sales through partners hit the 35 percent mark, up 2 percent over last year, Atkins said. That number seems less impressive than it really is since last year's figures also included PC and laptop sales that have since transitioned to Lenovo.

In his PartnerWorld keynote, Atkins also got in some jabs at unnamed competitors. "Loyalty: Should it be earned or dictated? I think you know where we stand," he said.

Attendees knew, without Atkins saying, that his remark was aimed squarely at IBM rival Hewlett-Packard, which has drawn fire of late for trying to pressure partners to be more exclusive to its wares.

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IBM isn’t alone in trying to sharpen its partner focus. Microsoft is concentrating on building partner profitability, and BEA Systems--not known heretofore for its partner friendliness--lately is winning plaudits by building an ecosystem for its application server and related offerings. Oracle, too, is claiming the partner religion, although its acquisition of PeopleSoft and Siebel Systems will pose challenges since it now fields three internal sales forces for CRM, applications and database/application servers.

Atkins and other IBM executives also claimed that IBM's four-year-old On Demand initiative has struck a chord. If imitation is the sign of success, the On Demand message of flexible, adaptable infrastructure has been wildly successful, said J. Bruce Harreld, IBM’s senior vice president of marketing and strategy. He showed a slide that listed similar efforts by other vendors, including HP's Adaptive Enterprise and BEA's Liquid Computing.

Some partners, however, might beg to differ on the traction that On Demand has achieved in the field. One criticism is that IBM slapped the "On Demand" moniker on all sorts of efforts without adequately explaining it. Many people still don't understand exactly what On Demand means, several solution providers said.