Lata Singh, Director – IBM Partner Ecosystem shares IBM’s channel directions, hybrid cloud and scaling AI investments
What has been the key highlights of 2019 and how 2020 will be an important year for the IT channel industry?
Globally and in India we have been seeing the second chapter of digital transformation, where industries went from experimenting to mainstreaming of Hybrid Cloud and scaling AI investments. In 2019, IT channel industry players have been able to capitalize on these trends and transform themselves to move up the value chain for their clients. IBM invested in new programmes that transformed our engagement with the partners and helped them accelerate development and delivery of cloud and AI solutions to our clients.
Can you tell top three technology trends that channel community should be betting for and why?
As more companies start on their cloud journey a one-size-fits-all approach is no longer an option – they need to choose multiple cloud providers and clouds to best meet their needs. Hybrid cloud is estimated to be a $1.2 trillion dollar opportunity and IBM has made big, bold bets to capitalize on this. This includes the launch of IBM Cloud Paks, the Cloud Migration factory, Cloud Application Innovation, IBM Garages, the IBM Cloud Integration Platform, etc. The IBM public cloud has been rebuilt on a foundation of open source software, security leadership, and enterprise-grade infrastructure. It addresses clients’ enterprise security and resiliency needs globally, leading to companies in highly regulated industries like financial services opting for us. IBM spent two years re-architecting our public cloud: a host of new solutions and services for its public cloud specifically to help clients run their most complex workloads natively on the cloud.
Artificial Intelligence adoption in India progressing rapidly on the maturity curve. Until recently, clients were still evaluating AI but in terms of “doing” something in AI they weren’t ready. The scenario has changed dramatically with clients rapidly adapting Chat bots and voice bots as an external touch point as well as investing in their own data science and machine learning teams to write their own algorithms. IBM is fully focused on providing AI to businesses so that they can transform and better serve their customers and employees. In 2019, we announced Watson Anywhere wherein we now make available the industry leading Watson AI technologies to run on any cloud including competitors. IBM’s AI brings together latest technology, industry expertise, research capabilities and commitment to trust and responsible stewardship.
When digital becomes the new way of doing business, so does the challenges and vulnerabilities. Cybersecurity continues to be a major focus area for the industry, and we have launched a Managed Services Security Provider program (MSSP) to help partners build their security practices and deliver solutions in an embedded model which allows them to build as they onboard customers. We have introduced a Know Your IBM Security Sales Incentive which provides reloadable IBM Rewards debit cards to partners who sell new Security licenses and SaaS.
What are the top channel directions your company has set for your partners and where should partners invest to be aligned to these directions?
We are transforming how partners engage with IBM and our strategy is to enable them with skills, empower them through new technology and evolve as we build smarter businesses to change the world. We are working with our partner community to accelerate the development and delivery of cloud and AI solutions to our clients and at the same time improve our partner end-to-end experience, which is core to the relationship. IBM’s channel team will focus on encouraging partners to gain expertise around hybrid cloud, security and AI as well as emerging technologies like blockchain. With the right skills, our partners can lead the discussions with the clients on their transformation journey. IBM continues to make strategic investment in public cloud on which clients host their most complex workloads because we offer the most secure, open and enterprise-grade public cloud. Most enterprises today are about 20 percent into their transition to the cloud – the next chapter on the journey is about shifting mission critical workloads to the cloud and optimizing everything from supply chains to core banking systems.
To support growth in the cloud, we are empowering partners to adopt IBM Cloud Paks which are enterprise-grade container software packages with guidance and step-by-step instructions to quickly build with open standards to enable hybrid and multicloud deployments. We also have a new Cloud Digital Technical Engagement program for partners and clients, which gives unprecedented, self-service access to technical assets focused on product demos and tutorials. These assets foster a deeper understanding of our product offerings and their role in catalysing our clients’ journey to the Cloud and AI. With our enterprise-grade container software packages, we also see larger traction with the born-on-the-cloud ecosystem in the coming year.
One of the most significant challenges associated with hybrid multi-cloud deployments is achieving interoperability, portability and security compliance of applications across multiple cloud environments. The use of open-source cloud development platforms through our acquisition of Red Hat provides an effective way to overcome these challenges as well as manage workloads across multiple clouds. This is a game-changer for the cloud market as we are the two best-in-class hybrid cloud providers that together will help companies move to the next chapter of the cloud while addressing the issues around portability, management consistency, security and remaining open to avoid vendor lock-in.
Partners have the opportunity to accelerate skills development, and capture growth in AI, Cloud, IoT, Security etc and continue to expand their businesses with IBM. To accelerate our progress in helping partners build next gen skills, we have new Business Partner sales and technical journeys on the IBM Skills Gateway platform that provide partners with the same learning experience as IBM clients and sellers to develop their IBM portfolio expertise and help them earn IBM credentials. Globally, partners have doubled in their number of competencies in 2018. From 2017 to 2018, the number of Specialist competencies grew from 909 to 2096, and expert competencies grew from 641 to 1,266. In India the skill set on Security , Data & AI as well as Integration continue to be the focus that IBM Partners are building as the clients drive deeper discussion on capability to deliver and outcomes expected.