The firm always had one of the most loyal networks of business partners and has worked hard to make sure that most of those stay with the vendor as it goes through its own transformation process.
At the same time as encouraging those used to selling hardware and software to move towards the 'cognitive solutions' portfolio the vendor has been recruiting cloud players and deepening relationships with SIs and ISVs.
Diego Segre, vice president, business partners - IBM Europe, said that the vendor had been going through its own changes over the past few years to become a "cognitive solutions company on a cloud platform".
Along with its own changes it had seen partners also adapting business models to remain relevant and had been encouraging long standing resellers to think of changing their approach.
"Much of those changes can be translated to the business partner organisation. In the past it has been about traditional hardware and software but it is now moving to new consumption models and the cloud and new delivery models," said Segre.
"Some of the existing partners are transforming into new business models from a solutions standpoint," he added.
"All continue to do business with us and some of them are transforming faster than others. Some continue in traditional hardware but most understand they need to evolve," said Segre.
But along with the traditional business partners there have been attempts to capture some of the emerging generation of channel players that are not coming from the hardware selling background.
"we are going into new ecosystems to enable the new breed of partners and to work in new industries and ecosystems," he said.
One of the decisions that IBM has made is to avoid strict classifications of partners but instead to make things more fluid.
"We are adapting the coverage model so that instead of boxing them to classify the company we look at what they are doing at any given time," he said most partners did more than just one thing and were managed service providers as well as developers for example.
The reason for the continued attempts to recruit partners and maintain long standing relationships is because the channel still matters to IBM.
"We have an ambitious plan to grow dramatically the participation of the partner ecosystem into the whole of IBM," said Segre, who expects that to be in both absolute terms and as a percentage of the total business generated.
"We have always had a space where business partners play a key role in going to market. There is a transformation of that space but participation is increasing," he added.
"Some people that have not been in touch for a while would believe we are still this big infrastructure provider and will be surprised to see we are based around cognitive solutions. There is a lot of space to take our technology to market down an added value approach and there is a lot of opportunity there," he concluded.
IBM's channel growth plans
The vendor is looking for growth from partners and has a few ideas about where that might come from.
1. Existing partners - doing more with the current crop of business partners and looking to corner off any white space that is out in the current community
2. Portfolio expansion - encouraging more sales from business partners with a product portfolio that has been designed to be 'synergistic'
3. Look for new business - see what relationships can be made with SIs, ISVs and cloud providers that do not currently work with IBM