Several IBM partners have given the vendor the thumbs up for attempting to push more services through channel partners but question the long-term effectiveness of its programs.
IBM's Global Technology Services (GTS) division has spent this year beefing up its packaged services portfolio as part of plans to build its presence in the SMB space. The vendor appointed its first director of marketing and alternate channels, Jo Dooley, earlier in the year to help deliver its services out to the partner community. Dooley was previously tasked with a similar role across Asia-Pacific and has been with IBM for 10 years.
Dooley said it had repackaged its services portfolio into 10 areas including IT strategy and architecture, middleware, server, security and privacy and storage and data. More products will be introduced as part of IBM's asset-based acquisitions strategy. The vendor acquired Internet Security Systems last year and recently picked up storage vendor, Novus.
"We're finding more clients are asking not necessarily for a full solution, but a point product to integrate it with other things they're doing. It's similar with business partners," she said. "The problem with GTS was that our services were not packaged. We didn't have the means to make it easier to deal with us from a partner perspective - there was no chinese menu where they could ticks things off.
"We have grouped our services into logical areas based around the way customers wish to purchase. We also combined some together, while others were sunset. It's about productising the business. Our hardware and software colleagues do this very well, but from a services perspective we've been doing one-of-a-kind engagements."
As an example, Dooley said it provided a server hosting solution which helped ISVs sell a managed services around their software. By the end of the year, 20 per cent of IBM's services would be productised, she said.
"This allow us to get more repeatability and scalability across our offerings," she said.
Pre-sales manager of IBM business partner Tardis, Phil Jones, said it maintained a strong services practice but could see ways to supplement this with IBM services.
"If the services are in an area that we don't have, then we can offer a complete solution to the client," he said. "It could also assist us with getting it right the first time - almost like training. Being from IBM, it gives the customer a level of comfort and security."
Data#3 general manager, Laurence Baynham, said the Queensland-based integrator was unlikely to use IBM services because many competed with its own services offerings. But he applauded the vendor's effort to work closer to partners.
"I see this as an opportunity for smaller business partners," he said. "Anything IBM does to invest in more channel facilities and people has to be a good thing."
But Jones said IBM had tried to offer similar services to partners in the past with limited success.
"We have seen this stuff a number of times [from IBM] and we've not found it to be competitive with our own offerings," he said. "We can normally deliver our services at half the price of IBM."
To assist with its channel drive, IBM has grown its internal partner team from two staff to nine, realigning product managers to sit within its 10 service areas. Dooley said it had three sales managers assisting partners, as well as three specialty staff covering business continuity, security, server and maintenance and support, and a dedicated co-marketing staffer.
The vendor has also changed the way its internal sales teams are compensated to ensure they are not penalised for bringing channel partners into a client deal.
The aim was to grow its base of service-oriented partners, Dooley said. IBM had a top 20 list of partners including Data#3, CSC, EDS and Advent One, as well as emerging partners like PKBA.
Dooley said IBM had no plans to take business away from partners with existing services practices. She pointed out it had doubled the amount of business going through partners working with its integrated technology services division this year.
"If a partner is focused on consulting, they can just choose to work with us on certain parts of the services play," Dooley said. "Some partners will invest in services capabilities themselves and we don't want to compete with that. But they can't always do everything - if they have services in one area, they can choose complementary parts of our portfolio."