IBM Unveils New Collaborative Tool for Channel Partners

Annual Lotusphere gathering is dominated by new collaborative and cloud-computing technologies. IBM releases a platform to bring VARs and small businesses together.

Solution providers, ISVs and other channel partners that swarmed to Orlando for this year's Lotusphere encounter a number of new products and services for today's collaborative business world.

From cloud announcements to the unveiling of IBM Smart Market, a tool designed to bring together customers and solution providers, this year's Lotusphere also featured an array of new partnership and product news. The show attracted more than 7,000 attendees, said Bob Picciano, general manager of IBM Lotus Software (NYSE: IBM), a slight increase compared with last year's event.

Those IT professionals that visited product demonstrations and booths were well-advanced in their research or budgeting, said Jeff Goreski, vice president of technology and software development at Computer Generated Solutions, a Saint John, Canada-based Premier IBM Business Partner." So far it's been very good. It's down from last year, but I'm finding there are very serious inquiries," said Goreski. "The people who have made the investment, spent the money to be here, know exactly what they want."

New Services for Partners

To make it easier for businesses to find the best-suited channel partner, IBM Lotus took the wraps off IBM Smart Market and the Blue Business Platform, a central site for IBM Smart Business applications and services.

"The Blue Business Platform from IBM is a new and radical way for small and medium business (SMB) customers to learn, shop and buy solutions to run their business," said Mike Prochaska, program director for Blue Business Platform at IBM.  "Now you have one spot you can go to through our marketplace to see every single customer that purchased an application from you.  9When) the prospective customer wants to find a solution, they will find you by the category that they’re looking for. And then they give you pretty much a step-by-step process to put the information in about your services and your software that you provide the client."

Prospects will be screened, which should speed-up the sales process and reduce unnecessary solution-provider expenditures.

In addition to potentially generating new leads and revenue, the service was designed to simplify business partners' customer follow-up for upgrades and fixes since clients can do this using the platform. Solution providers do not need to rewrite their applications; they simply use IBM's wizard-driven toolkit for the framework, Prochaska said.

Participating solution providers also can use the site to create communities using blogs, chats and discussion forums between customers and VAR experts, further differentiating themselves from competitors and cementing the relationship between all parties, he added. As a result, VARs can spend less time and money on set-up and upgrades, while simultaneously improving customers' experiences.

"As a value-added reseller, the Blue Business Platform provides a great opportunity for you to increase your pipeline; get greater market reach; help reduce some of the menial tasks that you have to do today with setting up a customer; and focus more on application customization and higher-value services that you offer," said Prochaska in an IBM video about the Blue Business Platform.

Deeper Into the Cloud

IBM also used Lotusphere to showcase LotusLive, a cloud-based portfolio of social networking and collaboration services for business that will be sold and supported by multiple partner-types, such as solution providers, ISVs and conference service providers. LotusLive.com now houses all the vendor's cloud solutions such as email, collaboration and web-conferencing services, said Picciano.

"We believe our open, integrated platform will dramatically simplify and improve the way businesses interact with their partners and customers," he said. "With this offering we're taking Lotus to more people in more places than ever before."

Previously code-named Bluehouse, LotusLive lets businesses collaborate without purchasing up-front IT resources or infrastructure. Based on open web standards, LotusLive can easily be integrated with third-party applications via Click to Cloud, which seamlessly links technologies already in-use at a company with LotusLive services. The first round of partners include Skype, LinkedIn and Salesforce.com that, combined, could deliver these resources to their base of more than 400 million people around the world, according to IBM Lotus.

TAGS: cloud computing,services,collaboration,IBM,Salesforce.com



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