IBM Bolsters Channel's SaaS Marketing Efforts

Vendor supports "tremendous" SaaS growth by offering partners greater marketing support to increase product awareness and sales leads.

January 6, 2009

D.H. Kass

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IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) wants its reseller community more involved in selling SaaS solutions and has allocated hefty resources to generate SaaS market awareness and sales leads for partners.

“We’ve seen tremendous growth with our SaaS specialty in the last 12 to 18 months,” said Dave Mitchell, program director for IBM’s SaaS service. “We’re working with ISVs looking to move into the SaaS model. We have more than 250 ISVs using middleware, hardware or hosting services, and we’ve added more than 100 partners to our SaaS specialty in the last year.”

While IBM does not involve itself with partners in co-selling SaaS solutions to users, it is offering its SaaS specialty members a variety of support options to help generate product awareness and leads, Mitchell said. The vendor has a small, dedicated team of SaaS marketing specialists in the U.S. and Europe. “We also are leveraging local marketing relationship managers and training them to work with partners to understand how to market SaaS solutions. There’s a considerable role for the trusted advisor with SaaS.” 

The vendor recently made clear its intention to urge its ISVs to bring to market a mixed portfolio of on-premise and cloud-computing applications. Now, to solidify its point, IBM is showcasing web-based application providers such as Sky IT Group, which has built a SaaS solution for the wholesale/retail marketplace that provides in-depth sales chain analysis.

Sky, a privately-held, long-standing IBM Business Partner with offices in Atlanta, San Jose, New York and Charlotte, sells in-house and hosted application solutions for data warehousing and business intelligence environments.

The Sky offering is fundamentally a POS analysis tool delivered as a service using IBM database and server technology. It sifts raw sell-through data provided by the customer and returns custom sales performance reports accessed as a SaaS dashboard.

Sky has targeted the application at the data intensive fashion and apparel market and geared it to track sales performance near real time, enabling manufacturers, distributors and retailers to quickly and easily monitor sell-through information.

“We saw a need with manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers to identify sell-through information,” said Jay Hakami, Sky president and chief executive. “We thought ‘Why not do it as a web-based application’?”

Hakami said implementing the application as an on-premise solution might cost customers upwards of $500,000 but a subscription to the software service can be had for around $2,000 per month. Both the solution’s benefits and that price tempted Theory, a popular, high end clothing manufacturer and retailer to become one of a handful of early adopters of the Sky POS tool.

“The benefit [of the Sky application] as an IT department installation was straightforward,” said Keitaro Shigemasa, Theory chief information officer. “Because it was an SaaS service, there is minimal involvement from the CIO, and it was a fast, clean implementation.”

Shigemasa said that Theory had been gathering its POS data on spreadsheets to generate reports and create its sales and inventory analysis. But the company believed that it required faster data compilation and scrutiny and found the Sky tool appealing.

“We would look at our data in spreadsheets and slice and dice it that way,” Shigemasa said. “Often half a day or a full day had gone by before a report was generated.”

Shigemasa said that Theory had not quantified its savings from using the Sky software but believed that it was noteworthy in terms of time allocated. “Now we have the necessary information to make decisions many hours ahead of when we used to and we can make needed adjustments to inventory and sales orders. That alone saves us money.” 


TAGS: middleware,server,IBM,SaaS,marketing

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