IBM will formalise its channel-based services operations this year by introducing an accreditation programme to SME resellers in an attempt to raise its market share in the sector.
Executives outlined the vendor's global business strategy for services last week at the Business Partners Executive Conference (BPEC) in New Orleans, making it clear that it was to tie in services resellers more closely to IBM and partners would be expected to maximise the IBM content of their products.
The rationale behind the programme is that while IBM claimed to have captured about nine per cent of the global services market, which is estimated to be worth approximately $450 billion, its market share in the SME sector was much lower.
IBM business partners have been able to resell IBM services for several years now, but as service providers, they will be able offer specific services on a product-by-product basis, IBM claimed.
As revealed in PC Dealer at last year's BPEC conference, IBM intended channel partners to perform and deliver IBM-branded services, alongside their own products (PC Dealer, 25 February 1998).
'Historically, our relationship with business partners relied mainly on the selling of IBM products and services,' said Joseph Ziade, director of distribution channels for IBM Global Services. 'But we recognise that many of our partners possess skills, competencies, capabilities and experience that enable them to do much more.'
Qualification for the scheme will be based on the relevant skills needed for each specific product, with a services delivery kit provided for each.
The first of these is to migrate Office Vision/400, an AS/400 application, to Lotus Domino.
Lou Gerstner, chairman and chief executive of IBM, said partners can expect more support from IBM if they are prepared to give more commitment
'People are getting more selective about who they work with,' he told the audience of more than 6,000 partners in his keynote address at BPEC.
As a result, IBM will focus more of its resources on partners that, in turn, focus the most resources on it.
In the past two years, IBM has reduced the number of distributors it uses in the US from 18 to eight, while halving the 8,000 systems providers it previously worked with. 'This is part of a global trend. Nine out of 10 of the largest mergers ever occurred last year,' Gerstner said.
He added that IBM had already increased the amount of support it gives to partners by devoting more resources and sales support to them. This translated into the fact that they gained more than 100,000 leads last year, more than IBM gave to its direct sales force, Gerstner claimed.
Speaking about the vendor's e-business campaign, he added that IBM needed to stop talking about e-business and start winning sales. Gerstner told delegates that over the past few years IBM had won a lead in mindshare in the e-business sector but had to 'take that and turn it into marketshare,' by developing a business plan to help partners do this.
'You are going to hear a lot about this model in terms of business applications,' he said. He gave few specifics, except to say it would be based on standards such as PCs, Java and enterprise servers.
The aim was to help businesses develop packages to enable them to adapt to the changes brought about by the digital economy, Gerstner said. IBM was being affected by these changes and was developing applications to help customers buy from it and deal with it more easily over the internet.
The IT industry was at the beginning of one of its fundamental periods of change, he added, with the dominance of the PC about to end as other pervasive devices became increasingly important.
Gerstner also made the unsurprising prediction that the year 2000 problem would not be too severe: 'There will be some disruption, but we don't see any evidence of recession or digital winter.'
Meanwhile, Tivoli Systems, the IBM network management software unit, unveiled plans to capture more mid-sized accounts with its latest release.
Tivoli Netview IT Director Edition is a Windows NT-based tool combining network and systems management functions, allowing all devices on a network to be monitored.
'We'll be selling the product through the channel to SMEs,' said Michael O'Rourke, vice president of enterprise management systems at Tivoli.
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