IBM's software division is to review its three distributors and will open up its portfolio to new players as part of plans to introduce specialisations.
A new distribution structure is expected to be in place by November.
Software channels manager, Sue Hope, said the vendor would be asking current distributors to choose which of its brands they would like to become specialised in. It had also identified potential new partners that could help build a stronger skills base on individual platforms.
Big Blue currently has three distributors across its five core software products: Avnet, Express Data and Alstom IT.
At present, they are not required to hold specific certifications and can access the complete range, Hope said. Under the new plan, each would be required to maintain sales and technical skills in DB2, WebSphere, Lotus, Rational or Tivoli.
"We will still have those distributors but we might ask them to specialise in different products," Hope said. "It's a big portfolio to cover and some of the brands are quite complex. With data management, for example, you need to virtually have your own practice."
She said the vendor could wind up with a mix of existing distributors, as well as a couple of new partners specifically targeting one or two brands. "The idea is to have specialisation with a national focus as well," she said.
"If a distributor is a specialised Tivoli player, they will have specialised Tivoli people in all territories. You have to look at their business and where their sweet spots are."
IBM would reward distributors with a different margin and rebate structure, as well as co-funding resources such as marketing, Hope said.
"What we are saying is that if you make this investment and decide to specialise in brands, we would actually have a sales plan next year to support that investment," she said.
IBM would take formal proposals to distributors within weeks although all had already been notified informally of the plans, Hope said.
Each would be given about a month to nominate what specialisations or product areas they are keen to invest in.
During this time, distributors would be required to train staff in their chosen specialisation, she said.
"We will give them sufficient time to look at what they believe they want to do and come back to us," Hope said.
The changes would allow IBM to have an active recruitment program via its distribution tier, she said.
"We want them [distributors] to have very strong sales skills as well as good technical skills so they can offer support work to partners," Hope said.
"In order to be a true value-add distributor, you have to be able to go in and do proposals with your partners or go on customer calls with them.
"So we are asking distributors how they do that today and how they can do that differently in order to specialise."