IBM Levels Skills/Sales Support for Ecosystem Partners

The relationships between IT vendors and their strategic partners are not always transparent. Certainly, there are obvious differences between the focus areas and skill sets of partners, such as value-added resellers (VARs), ISVs, system integrators, and specialists/consultants. But, traditionally, the relationships between vendors and partners also follow a hierarchy of sorts with those partners providing vendors with the most direct monetary value (like resellers) receiving greater attention and resources than others. 

Shifting that dynamic qualifies as news, so the recent blog from Kate Woolley, GM of IBM Ecosystem, explaining how the company is revamping its training, certification, and sales support offerings for partners is worth considering.

IBM’s partner investments

So what exactly is IBM Ecosystem doing? Woolley noted that as part of an ongoing effort to simplify partners’ experience and provide improved and expanded tools and resources, IBM is:

  • Extending to all registered PartnerWorld members, at no charge, access to the same trainings, badges, and enablement materials that IBM’s sellers enjoy. Partners will have access to skilling resources that align with product offerings to deliver hybrid cloud and AI solutions to clients, within data and AI, automation, security, sustainability, infrastructure, and other areas.
  • Helping partners qualify for sales and technical badges that demonstrate industry-recognized expertise, including the ability to position and differentiate IBM solutions. The badges are shareable on professional social platforms, such as LinkedIn, and travel with the learner. 
  • Enabling partners to access additional prospecting materials, such as sales videos, seller presentations, client presentations, and content, including white papers, analyst reports, decks, and solutions briefs.
  • Launching a new learning hub designed to dramatically improve the digital experience for partners. The hub offers a modernized and consistent experience, making it easier to find resources, the right training at the right time, and complete the coursework desired. The new learning hub can be found at: 

Woolley also highlighted that over the past year, IBM has doubled brand-specialized partner sellers in the IBM Ecosystem, increased technical partner sellers by more than 35%, and bolstered the digital experience with its Partner Portal. As a result, deal registration has improved, and the company has introduced partners to more than 7,000 potential deals valued at over $500 million globally. Woolley also committed to IBM’s plans to continue investing in partners’ experience with the goal of doubling revenue through the IBM Ecosystem in the next three to five years. 

Final analysis

What are the takeaways here? A couple of things are worth noting. First, IBM’s decision to allow all registered partners to freely access training and materials that emphasize the quality and value of the company’s solutions qualifies as a great example of a vendor making itself easier for partners to support. That might sound like a no-brainer, but it is particularly important for a company actively working on expanding partner-driven sales. It also sets IBM apart from IT vendors that treat strategic partners hierarchically. 

It is also worth noting how closely aligned the materials and skilling assets are with key IBM strategic imperatives and targets, including hybrid cloud and AI solutions, automation, security, sustainability, and infrastructure. Note that “infrastructure” (aka hardware) is at the end of this list—suggesting the emphasis the company is placing on evolving partners’ skills beyond simply driving sales of servers and storage arrays. 

For over a decade, IBM has been transforming itself from a traditional enterprise systems player into a vendor that delivers reliably powerful, innovative, and effective solutions to a broad range of global businesses and industries. To achieve that goal, the company needs to help ensure the participation and success of companies with whom it collaborates. 

Kate Woolley’s blog highlights the value of providing all strategic partners access to enhanced training and sales collateral. She also underscores IBM’s commitment to its own transformation and to bringing strategic partners along for what should be a memorable and profitable ride.  

Written by Charles King, Pund-IT®