IBM readies the channel

IBM readies the channel

Australia is to be the first recipient of a combined Lotus and IBM developer program that falls under the global umbrella of IBM's ambitious PartnerWorld initiative.

Focused on software, the alliance between IBM Software Group and Lotus Development will combine the presently disparate business partner programs and members into one cohesive group called PartnerWorld for IBM and Lotus.

The program will focus on the e-business strengths of IBM, Lotus and their partners, and facilitate partner access to the vendors and customer access to the partners. "IBM's channel understand where IBM is driving e-business through its E-business Application Framework but Lotus partners have only concentrated on Lotus software. This program will allow them to understand the broader concept and provide the customer with more complete solutions," claimed Steve Blunt, channel sales director for Lotus, who said e-business training and enablement sessions are already underway.

Under this new guise, Lotus' 450 Australian and New Zealand partners and IBM's 350 local developer partners, many of them overlapping, will be classified under three new partner tiers, Member, Advanced and Premier.

The Member category is the entry level to the program and provides partners with access to Lotus and IBM technology. However, participants are only able to stay a member for 12 months. "Previously, partners could join the program and then sit there indefinitely. Now we would like them to actively get technically competent and certified and move onto the next level within 12 months," said Blunt.

Advanced partners need to show a strong commitment to IBM and Lotus software by using it internally as well as showing a high level of competency proven through certification.

Premier members are the elite of the program and focus on solution deployment and service delivery.

"Previously, IBM and Lotus software focused on our partners being technically competent. But under the PartnerWorld program we are broadening this criteria to include the four c's: commitment, contribution, competency and customer satisfaction," explained Blunt.

In return, Lotus and IBM will provide partners with access to $US100,000 worth of software, sales and promotional assistance, up to 40 free support incidents, financial assistance with technical training and regular communication, and access to IBM and Lotus.

The revised partner arrangements are still in the organisational stage with Blunt expecting partners and their positions in the hierarchy to be finalised by September. "In July all of the partners were approached directly and were asked to look at joining the new structure. Our goal is to have as many rejoin as possible but some will choose not to and those that do must advance past the member stage in the next 12 months," stressed Blunt.

However, the worldwide rollout of this project is only scheduled for sometime next year along with a series of other PartnerWorld announcements. "Australia is very much leading the charge and the Asia-Pacific is only slightly behind. But worldwide, the combined software partner program will only be rolled out under the PartnerWorld umbrella during 2000 amid a lot of other activity," said Blunt.

The basics of the plans for the year 2000 were announced at IBM's Solutions 99 conference in Las Vegas last week, with Bob Buie, worldwide channel manager, outlining an independent software vendor (ISV) initiative and a dedicated channel portal. "We are conducting seminars and training for ISVs on what they need to do and think to become channel-aware and ready. We call it Channel 101," said Buie.

IBM will also prepare for ISVs a specific channel deployment policy and then link the ISV to a global subcontractor already versed in the ways of the channel. "IBM, our partners and an ISV's special subcontractor can provide the ISV with education, marketing initiatives and introduce them to channel players," explained Buie.

The channel portal will provide partners with a single point of entry to IBM and comes equipped with profiler technology. "Once a partner has entered their details such as name, business, focus, favourite publications and so on, we can provide them with all the information they need, including access to other vendors, publications and relevant people in IBM," Buie said.

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