In a first exclusive interview with the Indian media the APAC channel chief of IBM, Paul Burton, General Manager, IBM Asia-Pacific talks about the renewed focus on IBM Ecosystem. Paul took over the role at IBM earlier this year. In the new role, Paul is responsible for all strategic and operational matters related to IBM’s sales, marketing, services, and delivery operations across Asia-Pacific. He firmly believes in the critical role of a holistic tech ecosystem in enabling IBM’s capabilities across its global centres of excellence, and research and innovation labs
CRN India: With the acquisition of Red Hat, the spin-off of Kyndryl, and with this renewed focus on hybrid cloud and AI, what does IBM think about the changes that can benefit the entire channel community when today’s partners have a variety of business models to choose from?
Paul Burton: IBM is laser-focused on open hybrid cloud and AI, which are the dominant forces driving change for clients. We are investing $1 billion in our partner ecosystem to support our shared pursuit of the hybrid cloud and AI market opportunity
Our new approach represents the biggest change to our go-to-market model in 30 years, simplifying the way our partners work with us, access clients, and deliver consistent client experiences. We are delivering a consistent partner experience for companies of all types and with differing needs to help them win with clients
There is a growing role for partners because every client is on a digital transformation journey and wants specialization that no one vendor alone can provide. IBM’s unique open hybrid cloud platform, with RH OpenShift and IBM Cloud Paks, provides the greatest opportunity for partners looking to grow with IBM and drive transformative change for clients
The IBM Ecosystem is centered around a shared vision for the future of hybrid cloud and AI:
§ We have doubled our brand specialized capacity in the IBM Ecosystem
§ We have increased technical specialists by 35% to support partners
§ We provide market-leading support and skilling for our partners to win with clients
§ We are significantly streamlining and simplifying the way partners access IBM solutions, resources, and expertise to help them go to market faster and grow their businesses
We want our partners to be the best in the industry at establishing a hybrid cloud architecture and an AI footprint for clients
CRN India: The spin-off of Kyndryl has allowed IBM to focus more on software and consulting. With the new focus and agility, IBM is looking to provide better service to clients and leverage its ecosystem. Can you share the way forward for IBM partners? How the transition will impact the partner’s business.
Paul Burton: We are significantly streamlining and simplifying the way partners access IBM solutions, resources, and expertise to help them go to market faster and grow their businesses. We are enabling faster collaboration with simplified resources like the IBM Partner Portal, our most significant improvement to how we work with partners in a decade.
Last year we launched a new competency framework to enable partners to demonstrate expertise, technical validation, and sales success in specialized areas such as hybrid cloud infrastructure, automation, and security. We also introduced 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. And new skills aligned to the competency framework and job roles, along with technology to bring IBM training into partners’ own learning management systems, to help build credibility for our partners in the market. IBM wants its partners to be the best in the industry at establishing a hybrid architecture and an AI footprint for clients, and we will do even more this year to set them up for success. We’re confident we can do this together and achieve our goal of doubling revenue globally with partners over the next three to five years.
CRN India: The IBM Partner Ecosystem is core to IBM’s growth strategy. What are the focused areas where IBM and its partners are coming together? What is IBM’s pitch to potential partners to help expand the ecosystem?
Paul Burton: The IBM Ecosystem is a multi-billion-dollar growth engine for the company and our partners. It is an integral part to our transformation story.
The IBM Ecosystem – which includes tens of thousands of partners of all types globally and in APAC, as well as digital marketplaces, developers, and more – is leveraging joint strengths to solve the most complex challenges in business and society for clients with hybrid cloud and AI. We are making it easier for partners to do business with IBM and succeed. We are delivering a consistent partner experience for companies of all types and with differing needs to help them win with clients.
We provide market-leading support and skilling for our partners to win with clients. We are significantly streamlining and simplifying the way partners access IBM solutions, resources, and expertise to help them go to market faster and grow their businesses. We’re making it easier than ever for ecosystem partners to manage opportunities, incentives, and deals by enabling faster collaboration with simplified resources like the IBM Partner Portal, our most significant improvement to how we work with partners in a decade. We’re committed to helping our partners Build, Service, and Sell with IBM so they can compete in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
CRN India: IBM India is an important market within the APAC region and has a vibrant partner ecosystem from GSIs, ISVs, SIs, VARs, etc. IBM India is also expanding in tier 2 cities. With these aggressive growth plans, can you tell us the challenges and opportunities that are different for tier 2 and large partners? How are you looking to engage with partners as you expand business in India?
Paul Burton: We are seeing organizations committing fully to digital and adopting critical business transformation projects that are underpinned by the hybrid cloud, data, AI, and security as core technologies. Clients are now modernizing applications, moving more workloads to the cloud, and automating processes across the board. They expect the partner ecosystem to help bring this vision alive and enhance their resilience for future disruptions. Partners need the requisite skills and capabilities to deliver next-generation technologies and services. This is where IBM comes in. Basis the recently updated go-to-market model for our ecosystem partners, we have committed to engaging a significant majority of the market with our business partners.
With access to IBM Software Labs and IBM Client Engineering teams, our partners get enhanced support, and access to industry and technology expertise for dealing with complex engagements with clients.
We have also expanded the footprint of IBM Software Labs to tier-2 cities to address the growing requirements of our clients and support our partner ecosystem as well as tap into the local talent pool to strengthen skillsets. We have aligned more sales and technical resources to help our partners in sales engagement and technical enablement. We have also increased investment in digital sales and marketing to help increase lead creation and warm lead transfer to the partners.
We ensure partners across the board – from large to small to ISVs – have guidance and are aligned with focused resources to expand their partnership with IBM. We continue to build a robust ecosystem of partners working hand in hand with us to innovate on and scale our open hybrid cloud platform, which provides unparalleled choice and the flexibility, speed, and agility to operate workloads and applications on-prem or in any cloud environment.