New IBM Channel Chief Teltsch On The Opportunity In Cognitive Transformation, What's Next For IBM's Partner Program And The Challenges Ahead

Changing Of The Channel Guard

IBM's channel chief, Marc Dupaquier, is departing after 33 years with the technology giant, including the last four leading Big Blue's vast ecosystem of global distributors and consulting partners as general manager of global business partners at IBM.

Filling the void will be another long-time IBM veteran, John Teltsch, who is no stranger to the company's partners. Teltsch has spent 25 of his nearly 36 years at Big Blue leading sales teams around the company's systems and software divisions, both closely connected to IBM's channel community.

In his first interview since the appointment, Teltsch discussed with CRN his years of experience working with IBM's channel and how he plans to pick up where Dupaquier left off during a period of major transformation at the company.

While leadership transitions always pose challenges, he said, IBM is a 105-year-old company, so maintaining continuity is something it does exceedingly well.

While you don't come directly from the channel organization, it sounds like you're familiar with IBM's channel. Have you already begun reaching out to IBM channel partners?

I've been working with the channel for many years in many different roles in many geographies.

I've already talked to two large distributors. In addition, I've already gotten emails from some of the large Tier 1s who have heard a rumor that I'm coming back into the channel. I plan to be in Europe the week after next, meeting with European distributors.

We have to listen to what our distributors want and what our largest partners want and you can only do that being face-to-face with these companies.

You've been at IBM a long time. What are some of the highlights?

Over 35 years. I've spent 25 years between the systems group and software group. I've led the Latin America organization, spent three years in Europe running the software business living in Spain, I ran North America hardware, ran the global System X business, which is 80 percent channel. I was involved in the divestiture of that business to Lenovo. And most recently I've been running analytics software, moved that closely to a SaaS business.

What's next for IBM's partner program?

Over the last four years, Marc [Dupaquier] set up the organization, and it's been transforming every year. We cannot sit back on our laurels and wait for this transition. The market is changing and our partners are demanding we continue to transform.

I’m ready to build on the great work the team has done, supporting, educating and enabling our partners to be successful in the Cloud and Cognitive Era. This includes providing cognitive solutions on the IBM Cloud platform across industries that are rapidly transforming and helping our partners develop deep expertise to speed their time to market with new innovations.

As our CEO, Ginni Rometty (pictured), has said, data is the next natural resource, and deriving value from that data is where we will differentiate from competitors. IBM continues to build a cloud tuned for [artificial intelligence] and data - a cloud that learns, adapts and delivers competitive advantage.

How do you see the larger "cognitive transformation" empowering IBM Business Partners?

New workloads are emerging in the cloud infrastructure: machine learning, natural language processing, visual recognition, and the ability to find patterns in specific domains of knowledge, like health care, insurance, banking, education and retail. In these solutions, Power systems and our OpenPower ecosystem, IBM Flash Storage and Storage Software -- where we lead the industry -- are critical.

Our vision is to help our partners succeed by running these cognitive, data-rich workloads even faster, and more efficiently in order to stay ahead of the competition and increase their revenues while doing so.

I want to also add more focus around going after new clients by working very closely with ISVs and developers, improving our partner experiences.

What are some challenges facing the IBM partner organization?

The momentum we are seeing among our partners transitioning to cloud and cognitive technologies is terrific. But they still need our help to accelerate the development and go to market with new solutions.

IBM’s Business Partners are shifting to "as a Service" capabilities, but it's not fast enough. Business Partners can empower their clients to decide which deployment strategy is best and to be positioned with IBM as the team that can help them get there fastest. If those partners don’t lead with their cloud platform-enabled portfolio, clients may seek those services from other partners.

We are currently accelerating the transformation of our existing channel to SaaS by putting in place new SaaS rewards and SaaS transformation workshops, developing and executing SaaS plans with the top 500 business partners and making SaaS a mandatory component of all Business Partner plans.

What advantages is IBM giving its partners in a highly competitive market?

We have everything that our partners need to win in the Cognitive Era. We have the industry only enterprise cloud platform optimized for data and AI. We have POWER Systems with NVIDIA GPUs that deliver twice as much performance as Intel to accelerate algorithms for data intense workloads like genomics, health care, big data, video and more. We have a fast-growing flash and storage software portfolio. We also have Watson APIs for developers and services like IoT and Blockchain that are industry-leading on the IBM Cloud.

We will accelerate all of this, making sure our partners are enabled with the right tools, education and training so that they are prepared to take our cloud architecture and deliver the most powerful cognitive products and services in the market.

Do you see partners transforming their practices to take advantage of these cutting-edge technologies?

This month, more than 100 business partners submitted new business plans as part of Watson Build, demonstrating an incredible momentum and enthusiasm around Watson. They went through workshops and learned how to apply Design Thinking to their plans, which all center around IBM's cognitive technology on the cloud. We are ready to support and mentor our partners who are serious about bringing these solutions to market as we move into the next phase of the challenge.

I look forward to helping our partners continue their momentum, driving growth in these areas where there is high value and long term opportunity on which you can build a business.