Strategic partnerships are priority

Lou Gerstner set the tone for IBM’s partners in 2001 by emphasising what the vendor was doing to improve the channel and...

Lou Gerstner set the tone for IBM’s partners in 2001 by emphasising what the vendor was doing to improve the channel and challenging partners to increase their skills and investment in Big Blue.

He pointed to the company’s shift to channel sales for servers and the applications business, in which he said IBM had exited 90 per cent of the business and signed 50 strategic alliances with independent software vendors.

New general manager of global business partners, Peter Rowley, used his keynote to outline three priorities for partner relationships: growth and profitability, integration of sales and marketing with partners and improved ease of doing business.

The new territory-based channel strategy will help with local coverage as well as enabling partners to find each other, Rowley argued.

The territory model was one of the most important issues in the channel by a very large factor, according to Fred Tufts, vice president of Emea business partner management and strategy. But he acknowledged it would “take some time to get firing on all cylinders”.

While the market now demanded more collaboration between partners and expected them to network outside their own geographies, Tufts played down the drive towards pan-European distribution as “not the Holy Grail”.

In an interview prior to addressing PartnerWorld’s Emea partner rally, Giuseppe Giuliani, vice president business partners Emea, revealed his key priorities for the region in 2001.

Joint investment with the channel was a top issue, especially drawing new breeds of allies such as ISVs and system integrators, into the partner ecosystem. Giuliani also called for more capacity for storage in the channel, saying that storage and SAN were becoming very important.

Rowley warned IT purchasing decisions were being made in a “diversified, fragmented market” in which chief information officers no longer controlled budgets.

For coverage of this fragmented market, it was essential for IBM to have a range of partners with niche skills and expertise, Rowley argued.

Speaking at a press conference after his keynote speech, Rowley said that while he expected IBM to have a fairly strong 2001, he believed partners were the key to avoiding a slowdown. “If we can navigate our partners, we can navigate around the potential slowdown,” he maintained.

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