IBM Tidies Up PartnerWorld Program Criteria, Emphasizes Midmarket, Skills Development

Program update includes assigning senior level execs to premier partners, new social media tools, expanded partner locator, System x Specialty.

IBM Corp. has reconfigured the measures that determine membership levels within its PartnerWorld channel program, making adjustments to emphasize sales to midmarket accounts and those influenced by ISVs, adding client references as a category, and updating certification and skills requirements.

“These changes map to our direction and what we want to do in the channel,” said Mike Gerentine, IBM vice president of marketing and communications, global business partners and midmarket.

“Partner feedback calls for us to simplify,” he said. “Simplification and consistency with our strategy and messaging is very important to our partners.”

Specifically, IBM has boiled down membership criteria to four elements--reaching specified revenue bars, skills, customer satisfaction and client references. For example, in the new system, partners earn points for attaining more sophisticated skills such as advanced and expert-level technical certifications.

The renovated points system for attaining PartnerWorld levels will be reflected in channel partners’ profiles beginning in July 2010, officials said.

“We want to do a better job of integrating the criteria within the program,” Gerentine said. “Historically, we haven’t been consistent across all partner types but now the criteria applies to all partners, including ISVs,” he said.

In addition, IBM has tapped senior level executives to interact more closely with its top channel partner accounts, tripled the amount that resellers can claim for sales to mid-market businesses, offered members access to localized market intelligence reports and data, enhanced its partner locator tool, and rolled out a new specialty for its System x platform.

The PartnerWorld changes bring with them supplemental marketing and business development funds for channel partners, more pre- and post-sales support, participation in promotions and other benefits.

IBM figures that the closer it brings channel partners into the fold, the more those relationships will prosper. Accordingly, the vendor said it will assign senior level executives to work with its Premier-level business partners--an elite segment that accounts for about 2 percent of its 115,000 channel members--and Software Value Plus (SVP) authorized resellers.

Beginning in the third and fourth quarters of this year, the vendor will begin pairing executives to specific Premier partners, resulting in meetings between the parties twice a year, if necessary, Gerentine said.

“We want to make sure we align the right executive with the business partner,” he said.

IBM recently enacted a similar program, called Technical and Industry Advocates, that links technical and industry specialists from its 70 software laboratories worldwide to authorized business partners, a move the vendor figures will heighten knowledge of its software and internal workings and, correspondingly, lead to more business applications framed around its technology and services.

Vendor adds new skills specialty, market research, partner locator

The company’s PartnerWorld program additions also includes a new System x Specialty, which follows the framework, and is intended to complement, the vendor’s existing Dynamic Infrastructure Specialty, an offering rolled out last year undertaken by more than 150 business partners to date.

The System x Specialty offers tools and training required of channel partners to successfully sell the vendors System x solutions.

To qualify, channel partners must meet certain revenue criteria, employ two individuals with System x sales certifications and two with corresponding technical certifications in Blades or high volume storage, and provide a verified customer reference.

IBM business partners that attain the System x Specialty are granted additional pre- and post-sales technical support, $3,000 of incremental market development funding, and a System x Specialty mark delivered later this year and in 2011, Gerentine said.

IBM expects to roll out additional specializations--such as one for security--later this year, that will carry similar benefit packages, he said.

Gerentine said that the market intelligence benefit, available only to Advanced, Premier and SVP business partners, will consist of perhaps as many as 50 reports generated by data derived from internal and external sources.

The material will be localized to reflect channel partners’ technology focus, such as cloud computing and virtualization, and segmented by specific industries, including water management, utilities and security, Gerentine said.

IBM said that its enhanced web-based partner locator, equipped with a new landing page, includes the ability to search by capabilities and expertise, and also features a new interface using Google maps mash up capability and a partner profile comparison solution. The locator will be available July 9, 2010.

Finally, the vendor has spruced up its PartnerWorld portal pages covering sales, technical and support information. IBM said that it added live chat support, expanded social networking capabilities to include industry-focused groups and a feature for staging online events, and made it easier to navigate the site.

TAGS: IBM,certification,channel partner,mid-market,PartnerWorld

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