IBM has kicked off its PartnerWorld conference with a smattering of small announcements indicating that its main channel strategy these days is staying the course.
During a session with press, small and medium business (SMB) general manager, Marc Lautenbach, quipped that IBM's strategy is boring in its stability.
IBM's business partners drive about a third of the company's revenue - a $US32 billion contribution last year -and in recent years the company has emphasised its plan to steadily increase that figure by continually adjusting its partner support programs to meet the channel's needs.
Last year, IBM introduced an industry-focused reorganization of its channel efforts. This year, it will add four new vertical markets to that network: wholesale distribution, fabrication and assembly, education, and media and entertainment.
About 2500 partners now participated in the PartnerWorld Industry Networks program, executives said.
IBM also said it would dedicate 1000 sales specialists to work directly with business partners.
The staffing shift is part of IBM's plan to better connect independent software vendors (ISVs) with regional system integrators.
At PartnerWorld's opening session, executives spotlighted a project that brought together services firm, Distributed Systems Services, with e-commerce software developer, eOneGroup, to overhaul fishing tackle maker Pure Fishing's IT infrastructure.
That sort of team effort was a model of the alliances IBM sought to foster, Lautenbach said.
IBM ran a pilot program last year that linked 60 ISVs with regional integrators to help them find opportunities and close sales by territory and industry. This year, it will extend its use of similar programs.
Other new initiatives include a Built on Express qualification and marketing program to publiciae partner solutions built around IBM's Express product portfolio. IBM introduced Express in 2002 as a line of products tailored for midmarket customers.
The portfolio now encompassed 70 hardware, software and services offerings, Lautenbach said.
IBM also unveiled a servers and storage program called SystemSeller aimed at giving partners quick access to high-volume products preconfigured for SMB needs. The program, available globally, will initially include IBM's TotalStorage and eServer xSeries, OpenPower, pSeries and BladeCenter systems.
In presentations, IBM executives stressed that they saw business in the future coming primarily at the expense of other IT vendors.
After the soaring growth of the late '90s and the painful contractions of the past few years, IBM expects IT spending to grow at a steady 5 to 8 per cent annually from now through 2007.
"Not all boats will rise in this type of marketplace," cautioned IBM's sales head, Doug Elix, in a keynote session.
- For more on IBM PartnerWorld, see next week's edition of ARN.