The rapid pace of digitalisation has stimulated the demands for more personalised and specialised solutions to grow dramatically. And, the IT channel partners have been playing a key role in catering to the market demands and helping OEMs to establish their strong presence in the market. Sunil Mahajan, Director – Ecosystem, IBM India and South Asia, shared his vantage points on the significance of IT channel partners, in an exclusive interview with CRN India.
With the rising digitalisation, how have the dynamics of the hybrid cloud and AI market changed in recent times? How has this impacted the IT channel partners?
Today, client expectations are evolving at a rapid pace dictated by changing business and societal needs. They demand more specialised digital solutions and services – faster and hyper-personalised according to their preferred way of engaging. Solutions and services like these can only be delivered using technologies like the hybrid cloud and AI, leading to their growing adoption across nearly every industry and organisation. In fact, according to an IBM study, 85 percent of respondents from India said that they have adopted a hybrid cloud approach to help drive digital transformation.
These diverse and evolving client needs can’t be fulfilled by one technology vendor alone, therefore; the role of partnership is increasingly important. The partner ecosystem has become one of the most powerful forces in tech and a growth engine for businesses. IBM is no different and we are transforming the IBM Ecosystem to be a growth engine for the company and our partners, uniquely positioned to help capture the hybrid cloud and AI market opportunity.
The most significant impact for IT channel partners is that there is a much deeper collaboration than ever before. Co-creating solutions that address very specific client business challenges is the way forward. For instance, we worked with our partner Acuver Consulting to help Marks & Spencer India modernise by deploying an omnichannel order management system for faster go-to-market, enhanced order fulfillment capabilities, and improved customer experience.
Elaborate a bit on IBM’s new partner program. How partners can benefit from specialised financial, go-to-market support, and education benefits?
IBM Partner Plus is a single, integrated program that reimagines how IBM engages with new and existing partners, across all motions. The program is centered around three pillars – competitive incentives, insider access, and enhanced support and benefits – to help partners drive business with clients and grow with IBM.
We have created a simple incentives structure that maximizes transparency and predictability for partners, putting them in the driver’s seat by offering real-time visibility and a clear line of sight into earnings and deal eligibility, as well as how their business decisions impact the incentives they receive.
Partners will receive increased access to the same educational programs and hands-on training that IBMers get, free of charge. They can also attend IBM’s quarterly sales kickoffs together with IBM sellers and participate in live training sessions and other technical advocacy events.
IBM provides the support that partners need to build, service, and sell with IBM technologies like AI, Security and Cloud. Technical experts from IBM will also assist in the development of minimal viable products, proofs of concept, and custom demos to help them win client business and accelerate growth.
This program is the result of taking feedback from our partners that they want a simplified experience that helps them win with clients. We believe our continued investment into our partner ecosystem through the launch of IBM Partner Plus will make IBM the partner of choice across the industry.
In your opinion, what are some of the challenges that partners face in the present-day scenario, especially considering the rising demands for new-age IT solutions? How is IBM addressing these?
Digital transformation continues to accelerate rapidly driven by the need for organisations to build resilience and adaptability. Recent socio-economic pressures including extreme disruptions like the pandemic have forced many to re-evaluate how they manage their data, assets, infrastructure, and talent while addressing challenges related to sustainability, supply chains, and security. These challenges require more than just technology — which is why we bring our IBM Consulting team together with our product teams and with our partner ecosystem to help solve them.
In the areas of sustainable operations and supply chains, a higher degree of automation has become critical. We are continually adding to our IBM Environmental Intelligence Suite, and recently acquired Envizi, a leading data and analytics software provider for environmental performance management.
Cybersecurity has become one of the top concerns for organisations and is on every CEO’s mind. The demand for best-in-class security infrastructure has added pressure on IT vendors to provide unfailing solutions. It is an area of IBM’s strongest collaboration with our ecosystem partners as we work to implement new ‘zero trust’ strategies for greater visibility across fragmented IT environments.
As we have stepped into 2023, what is your vision for IBM for this year?
The IBM strategy is centered around five components – data, predict, automate, secure, and modernise – combined with hybrid cloud and AI, which opens up a $1 trillion market for us to jointly pursue with our partners. As a part of this commitment to drive growth for our partners, we have invested to help deepen partners’ technical expertise, accelerate time to market and win with clients. For instance, last year we announced an expansion of our embeddable AI software portfolio with the release of three new libraries designed to help IBM Ecosystem partners more easily and cost-effectively build their own AI-powered solutions and bring them to market. Another example is the IBM Partner Plus program.
2023 is going to be the year of growth for solutions for driving sustainability and doubling down on cyber security. In addition to this, organisations will truly start to work on projects with real bottom-line benefits by leveraging AI in all aspects. IBM will grow and scale predominantly via business partners and establish a clear marker in this area.