IBM plays matchmaker to unite channel

IT powerhouse IBM is adamant that partner collaboration is the key to unlocking the potential it sees in the Middle East. Channel Middle East caught up with Ravi Marwaha, general manager of IBM’s global business partners division, to discuss the initiatives the vendor is introducing to partners in the region.

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By  Administrator Published  June 1, 2007

What role do your channel partners in the Middle East play in IBM's overall strategy?

Our partners are an essential strand of IBM's growth strategy, especially in the Middle East where they represent an even more significant proportion of our revenue - up to 100% in some cases. Our success is completely intertwined; when you have that you need alignment.

Which areas of the market are you focusing on with your partners in this region?

We've been talking with partners about areas where we see opportunities, and we think they are primarily in the small and medium businesses. IBM has decided to significantly increase its investment in this area, and correspondingly if we are going to focus on that area we need them to increase their investment there too.

What do you perceive as the key element to your partners' success in this region?

Collaboration - we are putting in place a whole series of initiatives that facilitate not only the partners working with IBM, but also, very importantly, partners working with partners. Quite frequently we may have a software vendor and a system integrator needing to come together with IBM. We believe that as we go forward, success will not be about partners doing everything from beginning to end - if they're really going to effectively meet the solution needs of our customers, partners may have to collaborate.

How are you facilitating collaboration amongst partners?

We announced ‘value net connections', which is part of our ‘Partner World' tools for partners. So now there is a place to develop a value net, right from selection of partners to deciding how to develop a solution and how to go to market and generate demand.We're beginning to look at our partners as an ecosystem, and if it is going to be better than any other competitive ecosystem in the industry, then one of the underpinnings is efficiency. Efficiency is going to come as a result of collaboration.

How do you advise each partner to add their own value to IBM‘s operations?

If you think about the partner programme, partners started adding value due to their coverage, being able to be in front of the customer over a large territory and providing the product as well as installation and other services. Now partners are playing a much bigger role in adding value and the most important thing we talk about is how to complement each other. IBM's partners provide significant value and if you can provide a harmonious process where partners can use what they have to complement what IBM has, we can achieve a synergy.

What do you perceive as the key challenges facing partners in this region today?

The Middle East has the issue of growth - it's not a case of there being a lack of opportunity, rather a matter of determining how to seize the opportunity. It's a good problem to have, but still a problem. It means getting the right solutions and skills and getting that to the customer. We've done this in every country we operate in - over 170 countries. The question is how to use our experience and resources to do this better than anybody else.

And how are you leveraging your resources in this region?

We're making significant strides - we've just announced a spare parts hub for our Intel and AMD processors in a move that really shows our commitment to the region. We used to ship from Amsterdam, but we wanted a much more responsive system so now if we decided to double our volumes the customer service will be significantly enhanced.

And in terms of financial support, what moves are you making to assist partners?

We're offering extended financing to customers as well as partners. A partner might want IBM to finance a deal with a customer, so the customer buys from the partner, but has some financing options. Alternatively, the partner might come to us and tell us they want to buy stock or invest more and they can make use of the financing options that IBM offers to partners, so we have both offerings. It has been available worldwide but is now being rolled out in the Middle East. As this region is growing rapidly our partners here have a greater need for financing to enhance their businesses.

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