IBM is looking to inject new life into its software channel, announcing plans to include the division in its hardware Associate Member Program (AMP).
The decision will see existing PC and server resellers gain access to a select range of products, while giving software partners the ability to participate in new rewards schemes. The vendor has also made moves to formalise the skills of specialised software partners with new certification and training incentives.
To coincide with its US PartnerWorld conference this week, IBM will introduce its Lotus Domino Messaging Express and Tivoli Storage Manager software products to resellers participating in AMP.
Big Blue's general manager of software for ANZ, Steve Worrall, said the change allowed its SMB software resellers to access the same sales incentives as its hardware partners.
"The majority of our software partners don't know of AMP," Worrall said.
It would also allow existing AMP partners to extend their IBM product sets with complementary tools, he said.
IBM now has 450 active reseller partners signed up to the program, divided into platinum, gold and silver tiers. Each is based on minimum volume sales. All have access to online training, as well as incentives such as reward points for prizes.
Worrall said IBM was keen to recruit new resellers for AMP. However, it would only provide a select range of software through the program, ensuring that more specialised partners retained their competitive advantage, he said.
Newly appointed software channels manager, Sue Hope, said IBM would invest heavily in speciality software areas by providing extra incentives for partners who formalised their technical and sales staff. These bonuses would include free marketing, demand generation and sales leads, signage, access to joint technical resources and business development.
New classroom training sessions were expected to be launched in late March, and would carry through to the end of the year, she said.
"We've tried to structure the program so that big and small partners have the same equality," Hope said. "Small partners make big investments with us as well."
"What we want to do is make sure there's a differentiation between partners who choose to invest in specific areas of our business so that they get a disproportionate return," Worrall said. "Certification is a big part of that - so we will make sure it applies consistently across all of the five brands in our software group."
He said the program was based on capability, rather than volume targets.
"Clients are now taking a more flexible approach to IT projects. Most are looking to reduce risk by reducing project size," Worrall said. "As a consequence, we have to respond by building partnerships with organisations with skills that relate to a particular industry or business process problem and supporting them with the right technology."
He said IBM's software channel suffered from a lack of coherency across all of its product platforms. This was a result of its acquisition of several vendors in the past few years, including Rational.
The new changes were designed to formalise and solidify its partner model while also integrating it into the broader IBM channel, Worrall said. Overall, IBM expected to see software channel growth hit 30 per cent this year.
"This is higher than our division's overall growth," he said.
But despite the escalation in sales, Worrall said IBM had no plans to review its software distribution partners, Alstom IT, Express Data and Avnet.