IBM Global Partner GM Faces Challenges

New IBM Global Business Partner General Manager Marc Dupaquier, a 29-year IBM veteran with strong channel ties, steps into the role with the computer giant moving to revive its sagging hardware business and kick its software and Web services business up a notch.

Dupaquier, who spent the last four years as vice president of marketing and strategy for IBM's System and Technology Group, a $20 billion business, has already told CRN that he will work on helping partners take advantage of IBM's growing software business, which has seen a number of acquisitions in recent years including the $2 billion acquisition last year of high-flying Web services provider Softlayer.

Hardware sales from IBM's Systems and Technology group for the third quarter ended Sept. 30 were down 17 percent in the most recent quarter to $3.2 billion on a loss of $167 million. IBM's software sales, meanwhile, were up 1 percent to $5.8 billion in the most recent quarter. IBM has said cloud software sales are up 70 percent this year.

[Related: IBM Names New North American Channel Chief ]

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Partners, for their part, are looking forward to hearing from Dupaquier first hand when the new global business partner general manager hosts IBM partners at the IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference Feb. 10-13 at The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas.

Dupaquier replaces former Global Business Partner General Manager Mark Hennessy, who was appointed to the job in January 2012 and is slated to take an as-yet-unannounced role at IBM.

Bill Gleich, president of Jeskell Systems, a Laurel, Md.-based solution provider and IBM partner, said he is "confident" Dupaquier will be a "great asset" to the channel. "If there is one company with a strong bench of executive leaders to pull from, it's IBM," he said.

Dupaquier's channel background, gained at IBM, suggests he has had a long relationship with IBM business partners under different guises, including two years as general manager of IBM's overall Global Midmarket business, one year overseeing IBM's integrated servers as general manager of the business system group and four years leading its strategy and end-to-end global marketing as a "channel marketing and communication" specialist.

IBM partners say they are anxious to see if Dupaquier will keep the channel status quo or if he will shoulder bigger channel challenges such as unifying different lines of IBM's business into a more singular channel strategy. "How is he going to balance IBM's hardware business versus its cloud business and integrate software and services? Marc has some real challenges," said Michael Gray, COO at Champion Solutions Group, an IBM partner based in Boca Raton, Fla., No. 196 on the SP500 with $90 million in annual sales.

Gray praised IBM's former channel chief Hennessy for building strong relationships with channel partners and creating programs that helped partners like Champion Solutions Group flourish.

Partners said Hennessy was known among IBM partners for not rocking the boat and maintaining a stick-to-it strategy focused on pushing the channel into more midmarket accounts with programs such as Smarter Planet solutions and its PureSystems technology. But some partners, who preferred not to be identified, told CRN they are hoping for something new from the channel chief.

"Right now IBM's direct sales teams work with a small percent of channel community. That's causing problems," said an IBM partner who asked not to be identified. "Customers need consistent messaging. IBM needs to open up and work with the entire channel, not a select few, so everyone is on the same page selling the total IBM solution."

As for the future, another IBM partner, who requested anonymity, said: "If there is one thing that Marc will have to deal with, it's pushing one channel strategy. Different lines of business have different margins; different front-end incentives require different certification, offer different marketing dollars and require different ways of submitting payment. Hardware is different than software. If hardware sales soften and software sales rise, channel priorities are going to have to change."