IBM transforms its partners from traditional Reselling to Build & Service model to take on Hybrid Cloud opportunities  

Lata Singh, Director – IBM Partner Ecosystem

IBM is committed to provide great opportunities, platforms, resources and technologies for the partners. These enable them to innovate, design applications and deliver them in the cloud to support their customers’ ongoing digital transformation journeys. In an exclusive interview to CRN India, Lata Singh, Director – Partner Ecosystem, IBM India & South Asia says previously majority of the partners were focused on reselling, and are now embracing the build and services models to respond to the clients’ changing go-to- model where solution is the key

IBM announced that it would spend $1 billion on a partner ecosystem, so that partners can play a much bigger role in fulfilling the needs of its customers. How IBM looks at strengthening its partners ecosystem.

Lata Singh: We announced the $1 billion investment for the ecosystem, around a year and half back to enable our partners. The investment revolves around three key elements and is available across all geographies, not just India. The first being competencies which enables partners to demonstrate expertise, technical validation, and sales success in specialized areas such as hybrid cloud infrastructure, automation, and security.

The second is training which is aligned to the competency framework and job roles. This includes a training API that enables partners to integrate IBM’s training courseware into their learning management systems to further build their skills and credibility in the market.

The third is benefits which provides partners access to new benefits such as co-creation client centers, proof-of-concept incentives to fuel co-innovation, and messaging acceleration workshops to help partner organizations develop custom, buyer-centric messaging plans.

In India, we are investing in our partner’s multi-fold; basis the partner and ecosystem requirements. An important aspect is that there is a shift in moving beyond resell models as the clients’ technology needs are changing. A lot of organizations are building solutions, to support their clients’ business needs or to meet new requests. Hence our model evolves with the evolving ecosystem:

One of the key areas is enabling our partners on IBM technology roadmap which is steered towards the- hybrid cloud. This is important because increasingly clients are looking at accelerating their digital transformation and we know that less than 25% of workloads have moved to the cloud so far. The partners play a critical role in that journey and therefore they need to be enabled on technologies that are underlining the change.

Another key area is building capabilities not just from pre-sales and sales perspective but also delivery capabilities for successful execution of client projects. Finally, our partners selling engagement has also changed as they are focussing on build and service models. This means our partners are embedding IBM solutions into their go to market models and that’s another area where we are investing.

 Can you elaborate more on the Build partner ecosystem, what are the core elements and what is it all about?

Lata Singh: As a context, we are seeing a shift where previously the majority of the partners were focused on reselling, and are now embracing the build and services models to respond to the clients’ changing go-to-market model where solution is the key. As we know around 80% of the workloads are still to be moved to the cloud and due to security, compliance, governance and cost reasons require a hybrid cloud and AI strategy.

The Build and Service models focus on enabling the ecosystem to use IBM technologies to build applications / solutions, and to deliver a managed services offering not just on-prem but also remotely to manage and predict the infrastructure. As an example, over the past year, the work from home environment has made security a critical aspect and therefore the partners have adopted a security portfolio to deliver managed security services.

What is the traction among partners around the build and the services? Does it require competency or investments from the partner side?

Lata Singh: There has been a positive response from the partner ecosystem. In terms of traction, our ecosystem partners would largely fall under three broad categories.

First being the large GSI partners who have been building applications or their business is largely services led, and therefore are already on their build and service journey.  Second, comprises partners who had built applications on our software portfolio and are now modernizing them using latest technologies including Red Hat OpenShift or they need to migrate from on-prem to the IBM Cloud so that’s the second set of partners. The third set of partners comprises popularly known as ‘born on the cloud’ partners and partners who are building platforms, based on their industry experience. Their aim is to reach out to more industries, based on their capabilities. Therefore, each partner has a different journey and will adopt technology depending on their business roadmap as well as their overall focus areas. The similarity is that the pandemic has accelerated the entire way of adopting technology for these partners and also the delivery model is changing continuously.

Recently, IBM and Microsoft announced the availability of a new solution. So how are these joint solutions supported by IBM and Microsoft and how are they creating a new value for your partners?

Lata Singh: In the technology ecosystem the trend is increasingly moving towards collaboration or co-opetition to deliver more value to the end client as to the technology leaders. Recently IBM and Microsoft announced the availability of a new solution to run the IBM WebSphere Application Server Network Deployment on Azure Linux Virtual Machines. The solution is jointly developed and supported by IBM and Microsoft. It enables easy migration of WebSphere workloads to Azure by automating most of the boilerplate resource provisioning tasks to set up a highly available cluster of WebSphere servers on Azure Virtual Machines. The solution is an example of ecosystem collaboration where we are building solutions together. There are many such examples including with partners like ServiceNow. Essentially, it’s a partnership where the OEMs are looking at what is the best for both technology partners and the ability to deliver solutions that meet the needs of the customers that are the adopters of the technology.

In terms of services and solutions, IBM partners are building phenomenal use cases. How are you supporting partners in building Future Ready technologies?

Lata Singh: The IBM program focuses on multiple aspects including developing competencies, providing technical support and resources to the partner along their build journey. IBM has developed a new competency framework which enables partners to demonstrate their expertise, technical validation and sales success across areas such as Hybrid Cloud, Automation and industry verticals.

In terms of technical expertise, early this year IBM launched the Hybrid Cloud Build Team with dedicated experts across geographies including in India to co-create advanced solutions with ecosystem partners and helping partners modernize and migrate workloads, as well as infuse AI into their applications and software. This is an important part of the partner’s journey where technical experts from both the teams work jointly and hence it’s about showing and doing it together rather than telling. The cloud engagement fund also helps the partners by providing resources through this journey.

We are also drawing synergies with Red Hat, one of the key areas is modernization. As our partners look at building applications, with Red Hat they can build them once and deploy them everywhere. With Red Hat our mission is to scale open-source technologies to accelerate innovation and growth by enabling our partners to leverage the freedom, flexibility, speed and security which are essential today and in the future.

For our partners, we also have joint value propositions and resources available through IBM Red Hat partner run book. More importantly, with Red Hat fast start partners can leverage their Red Hat partner level accreditations to meet the skill requirements for an authorization to resell IBM products. For example, a Red Hat Advanced Partner Level accreditation has the same status in IBM PartnerWorld program as a specialist competency. However, while the two partner programs are different and they run independently, the intent is to leverage the best of both the solutions to provide the best value proposition to the end client.

How IBM is working with smaller partners like born on cloud and start-up ecosystem of partners?

Lata Singh: The born on the cloud partners are definitely looking at new ways of deploying technologies and building their capabilities on those technologies. The challenge appears while scaling for larger engagements with enterprise clients. Here they need the expertise of an organization that has worked with enterprise clients and are aware of their needs be it on data governance or security and this is an area where IBM is a leader.

We are reaching out to a large set of ISV partners through the value-added distributors (VAD) program who are transforming themselves as cloud aggregators. It is important that we focus on how we leverage synergies not just within the tech ecosystem but also with ecosystem players. It is collaboration at the technology level as well as at the market level.

Hence the intent is to drive collaboration between small boutique firms or niche born on the cloud firms that have the capability, with larger partners who may need their solution. Another aspect of the collaboration is around VADs supporting our smaller partners on their go- to-market model with their cloud platforms or marketplaces.

In the new normal how are the roles of women in tech changing and do you think this new work from home model is bringing more & newer challenges for women in tech?

Lata Singh: There are two sides of every coin – today we have the flexibility to work from anywhere which is breaking the boundaries and is addressing challenges around work location and traveling time. So, there is definitely the ease of taking up roles that do not require you to be physically present because it is proven that we can do it all remotely.  With increase in managed services requirements and adoption of technologies, we are seeing an upward trend with more women in Security, AI and Machine Learning fields. However, I would say that there are challenges as well especially if women have small kids and are working from home. Therefore, it is increasingly important that each of us encourage the other with a big support system along with men who are leaning in to support the women as well.


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