Channel partners will play a significant role in helping customers drive digital transformation and innovation on IBM solution. Mukul Mathur, VP – Global Business Partners and System Integrators, IBM India and South Asia talks about the opportunities being created for partners in the transformational era that will, in turn, accelerate its growth.
What are the current trends prevailing in the industry today and how is IBM aligning to these?
The shift in the industry is tectonic. A whole new era of computing has emerged, which is centered around cloud and cognitive. Going digital is becoming the baseline for every organization business. But, what could differentiate the organizations is not the fact that they have become digital but using cognitive solution or getting desired insights. The people who are able to use digital platform and get critical business insights are winners of tomorrow.
Besides, three fundamental architecture will determine the winner or loser of the future. The first architectural decision that they need to make is about the data platform. Organizations need to have an architectural decision as to how they will handle data, both structured and unstructured. The second is on the cognitive or AI platform. And the third critical architectural decision that is needed to be taken is the cloud platform. Today, everything that we do is related to cognitive, and everything that it delivers is through the cloud based delivery model.
We are constantly transforming and focus on emerging technology and platforms like cloud, analytics, Watson, security, IoT, Mobile and Blockchain. We have the Watson data platform, which is all about how businesses can use cognitive capabilities to take smarter decisions. We also have analytics platform which is taking care of complete data management, by looking at structured and unstructured data and driving sense out of it before going cognitive.
As far as cloud platform is concerned, IBM Bluemix has the infrastructure layer, flexibility, transparency, hybrid infrastructure, Linux offering on Z series, flash storage and software-defined storage offering – they all form the core element of building the infrastructure platfrom and IBM will continue to invest in these areas to help build public, private, and hybrid cloud for the clients. IBM is focused on data platform, cognitive & AI, and cloud architectures.
Looking at these trends, what all opportunities being created for IBM business partners?
When we look at different areas that we are working on, there are different types of partners who will participate. At IBM, we have built a diverse ecosystem of business partners, including ISVs, System Integrators, and developers/start-ups. The System Integrators will be actually building the solutions, then there will be ISVs building domain specific applications which will leverage APIs, and start-ups or developers are actually looking at completely disruptive practices in the industry. We are working with all these set of partners across our ecosystem.
Last but not the least, many of our traditional partners are building skills around cloud and getting into areas that surround the infrastructure such as security, which is creating a huge opportunity in the market today. Our business partners are working across all the areas – be it data platform, cloud platform, cognitive, and security domains.
Today, we have one of the most extensive global business partner networks in the world. Each relationship is guided by the IBM Business Partner Charter. This approach not only articulates our commitment to business partners but also strengthen our foothold foundation for mutual growth and greater profitability. We work very closely with our partners to provide the right solutions and better services to the clients. We also do business transformation workshops for those partners who are interested in relooking at their businesses.
We completely changed our Partner World Program, which was the fundamental umbrella program. Earlier, the focus was just on developing product skills. Now with the new program, our partners can develop capabilities to specialize in solution areas like cloud, security or Watson and get certification around specific industry. They can be more meaningful to the client if they demonstrate the solution areas. They can build industry domain skills because a lot of cognitive insights come with industry knowledge. We have also made changes to the partner tier model. These programs are designed to support and motivate all the business partners.
One of the things that we bring to the table is the ability to take our start-up or developer partners to enterprise clients. Most of the time, these partners don’t have the initial reach or connect with the enterprise clients. With our presence in the market, we come up with specific programs or activities along with these partners where they showcase their solutions in front of the enterprise customers. Right from helping our partners build the application, enabling them and creating a go-to-market strategy, we are with our partners in this transformation journey.
In this process, do you also have to do away with some of your traditional partners who were not willing to transform with these changing market dynamics?
It’s not that we have to do away with certain partners or vice-versa. While the market and client needs are transforming, we are also making changes in our approach accordingly. Apparently, many partners are transforming in their own way. There are partners who are willing to transform and move along with us in this journey. While we divested some of our traditional businesses (PCs, laptops, and servers), a few of the partners decided to continue with those businesses. Many others decided to use the opportunities to pan into newer areas with us like security and cloud infrastructure. Different partners have made their choices in terms of what areas they want to focus on. If you look at the cognitive or digital world, you will find a lot of new players with solution strength, application or industry capabilities.
Do you believe that the new age partners have the advantage over the traditional ones?
The answer could be both ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The disruptors always have their own abilities and strengths that they bring to the table for the clients. They challenge existing ways of doing things and in the process create new business models. There are successful disruptors who can scale, show the idea, and make things really work. But at the same time, clients are investing in their businsses wherein they have a need for partners who can take them through their transformation and could look at the disruptions their industry is facing and help the clients move from their core enterprise systems. But it’s not that core systems from enterprises would go away. Customers still need ERP or financial accounting. Now, they want to know how they can use this data along with social media to do targeted client campaign. How can they use Blockchain technology to make their supply chain completely secure. There is a significant amount of transformation that clients – be it large, medium, or small – are undergoing. While start-ups or disruptors would help them, a lot of assistance would require from traditional partners who could help them in their transformation. There is an opportunity for both the traditional as well as new age partners in this transformational era.
In such a case, can we see both traditional and new age partners collaborating to address market requirements?
Absolutely, yes. The areas of expertise are becoming deeper. And for building end-to-end client solution, many a times, you need multiple players. While there would be individual partners having expertise in single solution area like security, cloud or Watson, there are large integrators who carry different solution capabilities under their umbrella. But many times, clients want to be integrators themselves and they would need different participants to collaborate. The platforms that these clients build on are truly open platforms and this is where IBM comes into the picture, wherein we help partners build the skill and solution for these open platforms so that if they have to collaborate within our ecosystem or even outside, they can do so seamlessly and offer end-to-end solution to the customers.