As a 105-year-old company, IBM is synonymous with the past.
Think tabulating machines, typewriters, hard drives, personal computers and laptops - sold by dark suits and white shirts.
Yet as outlined at EDGE 2016, amidst a conference of channel change and reinvention, Big Blue is now new.
“We need to start with our own backyard before looking at other elements of change,” said IBM A/NZ director of global business partners, Rhody Burton, when addressing 250 Australian and New Zealand channel leaders.
In quoting former General Electric CEO, Jack Welch, Burton reiterated to the channel that; “if the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”
Referencing IBM’s own turnaround in the market, Burton challenged the channel to follow suit, insisting that partners also look inwards to drive internal disruption.
“The channel can take a lot from this,” Burton said. “If we do not start evolving ourselves, in the way we remodel our organisation, in the way we compensate staff or in the way we go to market, then we won’t survive.”
Yet Burton acknowledged that change should not only be reserved for partners, insisting that vendors must also reassess and revaluate go to market strategies.
“IBM is embarking on a big transformation,” she added. “We’re one of the oldest technology companies and in the past we’ve been known for being a hardware company, a software company and a services company.
“We are no longer those things. Today, IBM is a cognitive solutions company, where the platform is Cloud and we go to market by industry.
“We know the entire world is being redefined by software when we talk about the platform being Cloud. But what we’re seeing as a new phenomenon, is a need and want for industry-based Cloud.”
Whether it be education, finance or retail, Burton outlined the value of specialising within certain verticals, honing skills to provide a deeper level of service to the customer.
In a bid to target new customers and increase account penetration, Burton advised against partners becoming “everything to everybody”, instead operating in an industry that requires extended knowledge of trends, terminology and competitive tendencies - key hallmarks of differentiation for the channel.
With the channel ecosystem changing due to the influx of born-in-the-Cloud start-ups, Systems Integrators (SI), Independent Software Vendors (ISV), Managed Service Providers (MSPs), and customers offering services, Burton said that the reseller labels of yesterday no longer exist.
“Traditional labels of putting partners in a box and naming them something, those names are blurring and blending,” Burton added.
“Now, it’s all about delivering outcomes-as-a-service - I call it your-as-a-service (YaaS).”
Citing the YaaS approach, Burton said partners should also consider forging relationships with other partners in the ecosystem, as the idea of outright competition diminishes by the day.
“You need to listen to your business, your needs, the skills you have and how you want to make money,” she advised. “And if there is an industry to focus on, sometimes coopetition can be advantageous for this.
“But it’s also about innovation, and as a vendor we want to know how we can help your organisation and your customers innovate with what we do. The cognitive era enables that.”
Across Australia and New Zealand, Burton said growing trends such as Big Data, the Internet of Things and Cloud continues to contribute to the growth of the cognitive solutions.
In short, Burton staked IBM’s claim on a future where cognitive ability will permeate local organisations, based on the notion that the combination of digital business and intelligence represents the cognitive era.
“More than 80 percent of data is dark; it’s hidden,” Burton added. “All of these together build the growth of cognitive.
“But digital is not a destination. It is something that all organisations need to embrace and it needs to be in the DNA of your business. All customers should be on this journey right now.”
EDGE is designed to bring the Australia and New Zealand channel together in a collaborative and educational environment, providing vendors, distributors and partners with the competitive advantage necessary to bring continued success in 2016 and beyond.