IBM general manager, Kerry Purcell, and new channel boss, Rhody Burton, were aggressive in laying out the company’s new channel partner programme at its IBM Business Partner Symposium 2015, admitting that it has learned from the mistakes of the past 18 months.
Purcell pitched the new agenda as part of his keynote saying that the coming year would be about a less fragmented and more unified company.
“We want to be simplified, unified and showing up as one IBM to both our customers and partners, not many.”
Purcell was hardly candid in admitting the mistakes of the old IBM, saying that it is a big period of change for the company and that its previous partner strategies had not been cohesive.
“Like Alcoholics Anonymous, you have to admit you’ve got a problem, before you can move on with it,” he said.
The company has seen a raft of lay offs and changes over the past 18 months, with Purcell returning in January, and Burton joining three months ago. The company has also reorganised itself internally along verticals.
Purcell said he wants to leverage IBM’s key advantage, its global reach and resources, and ensure they are invested wisely locally. He told the audience that IBM A/NZ partners should now have the exact same experience as their US counterparts, with access to Watson, big data analytics, and software and research labs.
“We are asset rich, partner rich and client rich,” he said.
Purcell told attendees that he is proud to have brought former SAP and VMware channel staffer Rhody Burton to reinvent IBM’s channel.
“It took a lot to convince to get her on board, but it means we can reset reinvigorate and reinvest in our relationship with you,” he said.
Burton was next to take to the stage, and in her new role as director, One Channel, IBM A/NZ, said that she wants IBM and its partners to be the showcase for innovation, and become more agile.
“We want to think like a startup,” she said.
Part of her mission is to drag the company to compete with newer organisations and “become disruptors” themselves.
The basis of this is its new One Channel strategy, which can be broken down into four key areas:
“We want to cover the market through a healthy, vibrant eco-system where we are the trusted strategic vendor of choice going to market as One Channel,” she said.
“We want to invest in those partners that invest in us.”
The joint goals for growth with partners will be focused on time, people, resources and IP. She also wants to get hard and fast feedback from partners to improve the programme as it goes along.
“We want more in-depth knowledge of where you want to play with us,” she said.
IBM will be looking at its coverage gaps, and has already reorganised internally into verticals to focus on industry sectors. As such, IBM will be looking to bring new partners on board, and doesn’t want to create any clashes with existing partners.
One of the key changes Burton wants to focus on is pushing IBM’s new value proposition to partners.
“We know we need to be more consistent, and more predictable when you’re engaging with us,” she said.
Partners will also have single points of contact within the company, and every managed partner will have a joint business plan with us.”
Every strategic growth partner will also be treated as an ISV, namely, they will be helped to “build repeatable, productised offerings in conjunction with our business partners.”
Communication has obviously been a key problem for the company, and the theme was repeated during the panel session, which was chaired by Channel Dynamics’ Cam Wayland.
“Almost all of our problems have been due to a lack of early communication,” said Wesley McDonald, general manager, systems, IBM A/NZ.
“Clarity is so important, we need better communication and planning up front… we are happy to be executive sponsors,” said Omeed Kroll, VP software sales, IBM A/NZ.
Purcell reiterated his message that fragmentation has hurt IBM in the past, and that the company as a whole has been modernising at a global level.
“We are looking at whether we want to do the same tweaks down here,” Burton added.
The executive team as a whole was not afraid to engage the ‘cynics’ in the audience, sceptical of false dawns before across the industry. Kroll said that they will be taking a hardline with their own staff and pushing them harder to engage the channel.
“We will hold people’s feet to the fire,” she said.
Purcell doubled down: “We will break glass and smash plates to drive this change.”