At the end of February IBM hosted more than 5000 people at its global reseller conference, BPEC 97 (Business Partners Executive Conference), in Miami. Delegates from around the world, including more than 50 from Australia, were treated to three days of sessions and a large Solutions Centre show. ARN editor Paul Zucker attended.
In the last couple of years IBM has placed increasing emphasis on using the channel, not just to sell PCs and software, but increasingly the mid-scale and vertical application products. A year ago, at BPEC 96, IBM announced the IBM Business Partner Charter, designed to set out the new ways the company intends to conduct business, using the channel. One theme of this year's conference was a look at how the charter relates to the real world after a year of operation.
The company cited the following statistics: more than half of its small- to medium-sized enterprise business was driven by the channel (almost $US1 billion last year); more than 20 per cent of large business sales were through the channel last year; since last year, IBM has decreed that all PC sales and services will be fulfilled through the channel; almost all IBM software is now delivered through the channel.
Joseph Ballew of IBM distributor ProAmerica in the US said the changes at IBM are welcomed in the channel. "This is a clear message from IBM that the channel is a key vehicle for expanding coverage and bringing solutions to the customers."
IBMs 5000 business partners who attended BPEC 97 ranged from large software and hardware vendors to specialised resellers of IBM products, including more than 50 from Australia. A feature of the conference was the BEPC '97 Solution Centre, a huge hall with more than 500 demonstrations of current and upcoming IBM technology, plus that of business partners from around the world.
One of the most popular stands featured IBM's version of the NC, the IBM Network Station. It's a diskless computer that will work from servers running most operating systems, downloading applications as needed. While not suited to all environments, some observers feel it could replace many thick-client installations at an annual saving of more than 50 per cent.
Over three days delegates were offered hundreds of elective sessions in areas as diverse as electronic commerce, video servers and the year 2000 problem. Australian attendee Michael Myers of Concentric Asia/Pacific said the Management Excellence series was worth the trip alone. These featured eight internationally recognised experts giving provocative talks on business opportunities and how to take advantage of them.
In the spirit of IBM's new open approach to the channel, the company has vastly simplified and rationalised its portfolio of more than 200 types of business relationships with its partners. Now there is a single agreement which caters for the grand total of six types of business relationships, anywhere in the world. These are distributor; solution provider; systems integrator; reseller; sales agent; and product agent. The company says an additional advantage of the new agreement is that the structure encourages and enables cross-brand and geographic growth of a partner's business.
IBM business partner charter:
- Business partners will be our primary way to deliver solutions to small and medium- sized business- Business partners will also help us efficiently fulfil the IT needs of our large customers- We will team with you to jointly develop, sell and deliver services- We are strengthening relationships with PC Services Business Partners- We want to help you increase your IBM software revenue- To help you lower your cost of developing solutions on IBM platforms we are making it easier for you to do business with usThis charter reflects our commitment to you and underscores our belief that you should play a lead role in providing IBM products and services to our customers.