IBM Software Partner Programs To Get a Boost From Sandy Carter

Sandy Carter is excited. If you know her, that shouldn’t be a surprise – she’s one of the most enthusiastic, engaging and social media-savvy folks at IBM. And after a couple of years with WebSphere, where she has been an effective leader and evangelist , she’s taken on a new challenge: taking IBM’s already exemplary partner programs to another level. Sandy’s new title is Vice President,  IBM Software Group Channels.

Steve Mills, head of IBM’s software business, has made it clear that he envisions 3 growth areas: organic, acquisition, and channels. And his track record over the past few years has been exemplary; the internally developed and acquired offerings have made IBM’s software business one of its crown jewels and generates a big piece of its profit. Now, it’s on to the next step function, driving what IBM hopes will be its third wave of growth for the business: partners. And that is Sandy’s new opportunity, working with Robert LeBlanc, who’s the general manager for worldwide software sales for IBM Software Group.

In a recent conversation, Sandy shared her key goals with me, in 5 areas:

  • Prove that the channel is truly incremental. Today, IBM’s direct employees do most of the work around the world. But in developing economies, IBM is experimenting with new models. Today in Asia IBM has built partner-led territories, and they’re seeing significant growth. As these pilots continue, it’s learning best practices and these will inform changes in the structure as they continue.
  • Make sure partners are focused on client value.IBM wants to grow the skills of is partners, and reward them not just influencing business, but for building and supporting lasting customer relationships. Sandy points to Ascendant as a great example – it’s part of separate programs for ISVs, resellers and SIs and ready to go to providing service and support as well. This idea of moving from a transactional relationship to a business model relationship will be a key.
  • Support new business models. How can IBM and its partners go to market most successfully? Programs built around industries, solutions, and emerging technology models like cloud computing are all strong. New business models for effective partnering in sync with these developments are key, as well as recruitment: new markets, new partners.
  • Bring partners into smarter planet. IBM’s major theme in its messaging these days offers huge opportunities in leverage for partners savvy enough to get with the program. IBM has long offered media, event, collateral, advertising, and other programs for its partners, and the success of the Smarter Planet theme will be an enhancement for partners’ efforts to promote their own offerings.
  • Finally, in typical Sandy Cater fashion, there will be a renewed focus on communications with partners. Sandy’s already using her social media skills with a LinkedIn group that generated hundreds of sign-ups even before any real promotion – demonstrating that the medium is indeed often the message. She’ll use these channels – private communities, “matchmaking” and twitter included – to find more ways to become the partner of choice. She’ll also make some organizational shifts to increase resources dedicated to keeping partners whole and happy.

They get it out there, Sandy said:

One of our partners told me, “you’ve gone from recruiting to attracting.” Don’t get me wrong our recruiting agency are the best IT recruiters out there and there will always be a need for them. But, many of the opportunities out there are already in the social media. Japan, for example,  is the #1 country in the world for blogging. If you’re not where the partners are, they won’t find you.”

It’s long been my conviction that the next level of growth for the mega players – and their battleground – will be the channel. I’ve spent a good deal of time on these issues in the past few years,  and that belief is unchanged. Projecting market power to developing markets is a key strategy, and IBM is demonstrating its commitment. How social media influence the tactics will be a fascinating development to watch.

Published by Merv Adrian

Independent information technology market analyst and consultant, 40 years of industry experience, covering software in and around the data management space.

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