IBM has come out of beta with the first phase of what it calls its partner Business Transformation Initiative, a evolution program that provides its channel with advice on how to position businesses for the future.
Mike Gerentine, vice president of global partner marketing at IBM, said Big Blue - and other vendors - do a good job showing partners where they see business going in broad terms, but embracing opportunities means fundamental shifts in business model are required.
Far fewer vendors drill down from the strategic technology and market vision and to the more tactical details of how to transform a business. That's what IBM is seeking to do with this programme.
In Big Blue's world, social, analytics, cloud and security are among the top priorities, and many of those - cloud, in particular - are exactly the kinds of changes that require major partner changes.
"Today, [many partners] sell hardware, and they sell a software offering or two," Gerentine said. "But in this new direction, they have to have more of a cross-brand solution selling approach. It's higher margin, and higher value, but they don't know how to get there."
That's where IBM is looking to help with this programme: doing a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis with partners, and setting concrete activities and goals to help partners grow their business.
Exactly what that advice will constitute will vary greatly from partner to partner, but among the 85 one-on-one business development workshops done by IBM to date in their beta programme Gerentine said there have been some recurring elements.
Sales issues were key among them, including how to structure sales organisations and compensation for the cloud, and, as simple as it may seem, the basics of having an establish and well-trained common selling model across sales - the lack of which is a major problem IBM sees among its smaller partners.
The programme will roll out by the end of the second quarter, with IBM seeking to do "train the trainer" sessions for resources to manage the process for its partners. Gerentine said IBM would train its own people and distributor resources on running the training sessions.
In most cases, the programme will involve the IBM representative or distributor, someone from IBM's global channel marketing team, a third party business consultant and "a handful" of top executives from the provider.
Gerentine stressed that CEO attendance is one of Big Blue's requirements, as the changes involved are clearly top down.
Gerentine said even the smallest of its partners will be considered, particularly in the case of newer providers that have high potential for growth. Coming out of the meeting, partners will check in with IBM or distributor resources and key milestones to address at 30, 60 and 90 days.
Gerentine said the company will aim to do between 300 and 400 of the sessions this year worldwide and will continue the programme into 2015.
He estimated the cost to Big Blue at $5,000 (£3,000) for each one-day session. The programme is free for resellers selected to participate.
Gerentine described the current programme as the "101" level of its Business Transformation Initiative. After this year's programme, IBM will eye up follow-on workshops that continue some of the key findings of its one-on-one meetings with partners this year, he said.
"We want to be prescriptive. We want to show them how we're going to spoon feed them to grow their business," he said.
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