IBM Adapts Services Approach to Channel Partners

IBM knows that its Business Partners must deliver high-margin, high value services to flourish. But it now recognizes that IBM-branded services can be just a piece of the solution. Cyndi Privett, Vice President of Research and co-founder at Viewpoint Research Inc., explains how the vendor is adapting.

For decades, IBM’s underlying message to the channel from the services perspective was that the partner’s job was to sell IBM services and IBM would take it from there.

But there may be a new wind blowing at IBM – one that recognizes that IBM Business Partners must deliver high-margin, high value services to their customers to flourish.

IBM now publicly recognizes what the executives have acknowledged in private for years-- that IBM-branded services can be a piece of the customer solution but will not represent the total offering.

As a result, the portfolio of services that IBM is encouraging its partners to sell is increasingly better positioned as foundation-type services that partners can wrap their own services around as part of a total services offering.

Many solution providers don’t want to invest in a bench to manage their customer’s environment but they are eager to tap into the kind of annuity stream that a managed service represents.

IBM partners can sell IBM Express Managed services, wrap their own professional services around the IBM offering or, in some cases, license the offering from IBM and embed it in their own branded offering.

This new license offering represents a significant shift in IBM’s willingness to have the partner brand lead the service engagement.

IBM still has a journey ahead in terms of being completely flexible with Express Services and non-Express Services. Much is left to do in enabling partners to be the delivery agent.

Other hardware vendors such as EMC, NetApp, Cisco and even HP are further down the road in acknowledging the partner presence in the service engagement and providing service enablement to partners.

But IBM has made great strides in the last 2 years in recognizing that it needs channel partners with advanced skills and capabilities – and that those partners have established service practices of their own that have made them the trusted IT advisor to their customers.

Cyndi Privett is Vice President of Research and co-founder at Viewpoint Research Inc., a Scotts Valley, CA research firm specializing in channels.

TAGS: services,IBM,channel partners

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