IBM coddles its partners

IBM is trying to strengthen ties with partners through a raft of technical support programs and services that the company hopes will push forward its On Demand business strategy.

Many of the programs IBM announced at its annual PartnerWorld conference last week focused on business partners who are going after the SMB (small and midsize business) market.

The company announced its Small and Medium Business Advantage initiative, a US$500 million investment intended to spur demand-generation, education, and sales incentives to support its partners' efforts. The programs and financial investment join IBM's existing Express lineup of SMB-flavored server software as proof that Big Blue is serious about ratcheting its SMB strategy up a notch.

One of the programs, IBM Solutions Builder Express, serves as a blueprint for partners to sell On Demand solutions across a range of vertical industries. The program will leverage a combination of Express products aligned by both solution area and industry.

IBM CEO Sam Palmisano said the On Demand initiative is focused on helping customers use IT to grow. "Many of our clients are concerned that their companies are not agile enough to handle that growth. On demand, we believe, is the best way to be more agile. We see it as the biggest shift in our industry in the last 15 years," he said.

Some partners reacted favorably to the new program, believing it could kill a couple of birds with one stone.

"As a partner, Solutions Builder Express brings us a tangible road map for the Express stuff and offers some needed tools and assets to develop solutions unique to not only our clients' businesses but also their industries as well," said Steve Hunn, director of services at Lightyear Consulting.

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