IBM Channel Chief: Evolve Or Say Goodbye--

Partners saw this train coming, and now it's time to get on board, says IBM channel chief Marc Dupaquier in Orlando for the Channel Company's Best of Breed Conference.

In an effort to keep up with the pace of transformation in the technology industry, IBM is trying to bring its partners around to focus on high-value recurring revenue software and services business.

IBM has asked literally thousands of partners to evolve, and according to Dupaquier, who spoke with before his presentation Monday, the company has allowed partners to decide, at least in part, how they can best make that change.

"We ask every business partner, 'What is your expertise? What do you want to do? What can you do to add to your capabilities?'" Dupaquier said.

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Nevertheless, Dupaquier said he's been shocked by how unprepared partners are to make changes and evolve.

Those that are successful in making the necessary changes away from the short-term thinking and monthly sales numbers-focused model that dominated many partner sales strategies may find their relationship with IBM more lucrative than it has ever been.

Others, Dupaquier said, "will not be IBM partners in the future."

"We want to bring partners with us on this journey," he told more than 100 Best of Breed Conference attendees Monday evening. "Come with us or you won't be an IBM business partner any longer."

The company seems to be putting its money where its mouth is, investing tens of billions of dollars in cloud, big data, mobile and social technologies. Dupaquier told that IBM will spend hundreds of millions of dollars on partner evolution over the next two or three years.

CEOs and founders of many midsize partners find it difficult to make the change, but are enthusiastic once they get rolling, Dupaquier said. IBM has even taken to encouraging mergers between partners that have significant overlap, or complementary businesses.

"We're almost running a dating service for BPs," Dupaquier said.

Still, even the most enthusiastic partners have serious questions. Chief among them is how they get financing, and how they pay sales teams accustomed to the fat monthly checks the "hunter" mentality brings on a model that turns them into "farmers."

IBM has taken to making advance payments that carry claw-back agreements to cover the vendor if a contract is canceled.

"The goal is to bring partners with us as we go for value," Dupaquier said. "Partners may have an outdated view of what IBM is. We're hoping to explain this."

Gilbert Buthlay of BEK Inc., said Dupaquier's message was both inspiring and stark. IBM's strategy is exactly right for the times and the market, Buthlay said. "Mobility, security. That's huge for us."

Still, BEK is a small firm, and it's customers don't have the money to support the kind of wholesale transformation Dupaquier described.

"I understand it is very stressful," Dupaquier told conference attendees, "for every business partner I am meeting. You have to make a strategic decision. What do you want your solution to be in the future?"