Custom Tailored Solutions for the Crisis Prone
June 22, 2009 Dan Burger
Industry leaders like IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Oracle are not what you would call vertically challenged. Their sales and marketing strategies are big on vertical industries, and they make the most of selling hardware, software, and services that are customized for specific congregations based on similar business intentions and geographies.
You might remember a few years ago when IBM introduced the Vertical Industry Program to its System i independent software vendor community. VIP was designed to solve precise customer needs by teaming software vendors, resellers, and system integration experts in a plan aimed at improving integration and implementation–two open wounds that handicap many organizations. Greasing the wheels, in terms of partner collaboration, were expanded efforts in marketing and sales. The VIP was hailed as a great new undertaking, perhaps because it began on the AIX side where it was not ingrained.
The idea of combining partners’ expertise in particular industries, which was a strength for the System i from the days when IBM called it the AS/400, was determined to be an unconditional success. In less than a year it was credited with significantly increasing the number of new clients choosing the System i and exceeding financial targets. (It should be noted that IBM didn’t give out the number of new clients or exactly how the financial targets were ciphered.) But the VIP became the cornerstone channel program for the System i in 2007. Some say it needed to be reinstated because IBM had lost its way since the AS/400 hey days. And, in short order, Big Blue implemented the VIP across all its server platforms as well as its systems storage business.
After reading the most recent version of the ICM Crisis Report, a annual accounting of business crises that tracks 16 categories that match up with vertical industries, it caused me to wonder how IBM’s VIP was fairing in industries identified as being most affected by crisis. The top five industries in the ICM report were banking, food, securities and investments, petroleum, and insurance. Each of these is considered to be in the sweet spot for IBM i sales. (You can read the full ICM report, in a PDF document, here.)
From the beginning of its VIP, IBM has been guarded about specific details of any particular industry targets. But it seems likely that verticals with high rankings on the crisis report would coincide with fertile fields for IBM i workloads.
Are industries in crisis more inclined to turn to IT solutions to pry them out from between the rocks and the hard places they have gotten themselves into? There’s a good case to made that the VIP could help. IBM’s chairman and CEO, Sam Palmisano, is practically the poster boy for IT to the rescue. (See the article Infrastructure Business Monopoly in last week’s edition of The Four Hundred.)
It seems that a back to basics and best of breed approach would work well with companies in crisis mode. Hallmarks of the IBM i–things like cost of ownership, integration, ease of use, and high security–should take on greater significance. This might not show up in increased sales for the IBM i, but the concept of innovating and integrating on the ISV side offers an up side that strengthens the i community.