Mark Davison at PartnerWorld, Las Vegas – In a concerted effort to catch up with their fast-evolving business partners and meet their ever-changing needs, IBM today announced four new initiatives to make it easier, faster and more rewarding to combine their industry expertise with its technologies and meet the evolving requirements of their customers.

John Teltsch, GM of Global Business Partners at IBM, has been with the organisation since 1982, but only took up his current position in July last year. And he’s determined that IBM starts getting things right with its channel, making it easier to do business together, displaying more transparency and ensuring that both parties reap the rewards of the new opportunities opening up.

“We’ve been engaging with the channel for more than 30 years,” Teltsch says. “But in the past few years, our partners have radically transformed and, frankly, IBM’s internal channel hasn’t kept up. It’s all about change and we, ourselves, have to transform to meet the demands of our partners.

“That’s the mission of the new team members that I’ve brought on board,” he says. “There are a lot of new executives in the team that are there to bring new views and new perspectives to help us with this transformation.

“I don’t know if anyone noticed,” Teltsch adds, “but there was something unique about today’s keynotes from all IBM’s channel executives … something I hope we see more of. None of us used PowerPoint slides. I wanted our message to come from the hearts of these executives. I didn’t want people up there flipping charts, I wanted them talking. It’s a conversation and I hope we’ll see a lot more of it in the future.”

Teltsch says that the new initiatives are aimed at keeping IBM abreast of the continued transformation that is happening within the channel.

“In the IBM ecosystem, many core partners that have a long history with IBM are transforming into next-generation partners,” he says. “Take, for example, Flagship Solutions Group, which started with a resell model and is now embedding cloud and analytics into digital platforms to create new, high-margin opportunities for sports and entertainment brands.

“And then there are clients turned Business Partners, like Maersk, which is combining its 114 years of shipping industry experience with cloud and blockchain technologies to provide transparency and simplicity in the global trade ecosystem. Increasingly, clients like Maersk are partnering with IBM on new ventures by expanding their client base and creating new revenue streams.

“In order to accelerate our next-generation partners across the IBM ecosystem, today we are announcing four new initiatives that will make it easier, faster and more rewarding for Business Partners to combine their industry expertise with IBM technologies so that they can deliver high-value solutions that tackle their client’s toughest problems,” he says.

The new initiatives are:

Enabling ecosystem transformation. “Now, we’re making it easier for Business Partners who currently resell IBM technology to shift between engagement models and move up the client value chain with flexible benefits and support through PartnerWorld, our premier partner program,” Teltsch says. “We have consolidated the number of competencies we offer and made sure they are relevant to product authorisation so that partners can get higher recognition, faster.

“To help partners get greater insights into their partner journey, we’ve added features to the Program Console and PartnerWorld Advisor,” he says. “Additionally, we have introduced enhancements for partners that want to embed IBM technology into their solutions, including new bundled partner benefits and expanded SaaS trials, sandboxes, IBM Cloud credits and development assistance for those who want to build new solutions on IBM technology.

“Lastly, we will continue to expand our marketing development funds, further aligning them to partners that are building new skills in areas like digital marketing so they can reach new clients across new routes and drive demand when they are ready to go to market. Together, these enhancements and offerings help partners quickly spin up new business models and sell more industry relevant solutions.”

Introducing Watson Build 2.0, the AI challenge to build new IP. “The second iteration of our Watson Build challenge will help even more partners develop AI skills, build working prototypes of Watson-based solutions on the IBM Cloud in less than 10 months and incubate their ability to embed IBM technology faster,” Teltsch explains. “Last year, the first Watson Build challenge drew more than 1 300 firms to IBM design thinking workshops, spurred 400 AI-based business plans and enabled more than 100 partners to advance and develop new embedded AI solutions. Our 2017 global winner, Italian partner Blueit Group, took home the grand prize for its precision farming solution, which is designed to disrupt the agrifood industry. In phase 2, we expect even more partners to join the movement by dreaming up the next big prototype for their industry and make it a reality.”

Launching a new, digital self-service platform. “Designed for partners who are building and selling solutions with integrated IBM technology, the platform provides access to leading-edge technologies and offers technical support, pre-built code patterns and skill-building courses,” says Teltsch. “Partners can also take advantage of several promotional offers to help them get started building quickly with IBM Cloud, AI and data, including 10Tb of IBM Cloud Object storage, 100 000 conversations using IBM Watson Assistant and $50 000 in migration services for partners migrating over $20 000 per month in workloads from a competitor’s cloud. Once partners are ready to take their embedded solutions to market, they can list them on the IBM Marketplace and extend their reach to new clients globally. Businesses can further extend their access to resources by joining IBM developerWorks or by becoming a member of IBM PartnerWorld.

Expanding our digital footprint with third-party cloud marketplaces. “Over the past year, we have doubled down on IBM’s presence with third-party marketplaces and cloud aggregators,” Teltsch says. “In 2018, we signed new deals with AppDirect and ALSO Deutschland GmbH, which means that partners and clients can now find IBM offerings in a total of 10 different cloud platforms and reach more than 60-million new customers worldwide. New and existing partners can reap the benefits of these new routes to market as new customers bundle IBM technologies with other complementary catalog offerings and partner services. This provides a new integrated route for partners to serve their clients digitally.

“These new initiatives build on IBM’s next-generation ecosystem framework, which will go into effect April 10, 2018,” Teltsch says. “As part of IBM’s increased commitment to its partners’ growth, IBM will launch a restructured engagement model designed to improve the end-to-end partner experience and reward partners for shifting to higher value solutions that are aligned to strategic growth areas like AI, cloud, security and as a service offerings.

“In the new model, partners have an opportunity to experience greater profitability by contributing value through intellectual property, focusing on new clients and building new solutions,” he says.