IBM Goes Live with ‘Software Value Plus’ Program for Partners
February 8, 2010 Alex Woodie
On January 25, IBM‘s PartnerWorld organization officially began operating Software Value Plus, a new plan that aims to match experienced IBM business partners with customers looking to install particular IBM software products. While the plan will impose new restrictions on which partners can sell what products–rarely a popular move among loyal business partners–on launch day IBM sweetened the deal with new sales incentives and training and certification programs targeting cloud computing.
Navigating the PartnerWorld labyrinth is never an easy task for the army of hardware resellers, consultants, systems integrators, and software developers that make their living, in whole or in part, selling and installing IBM products, and that’s by design. IBM doesn’t make it easy because it doesn’t want its partners to get too comfy in a particular niche and lose their edge as technology evolves and passes them by. So if the array of programs are the levers by which IBM commands its partner army to do its bidding, then the specific requirements in those programs–including the partner’s membership level, its targeted industry, its geographic location, its IT specialties, its platform persuasion, its skill level, its required assistance, and its target customer size–are the strings that IBM uses to fine tune its war strategy.
Software Value Plus, which was announced last February but didn’t go into effect until two weeks ago, is the latest such program that IBM is using to affect what skills its business partners get and how they apply it to the market. IBM says it created the program “to help partners build the right skills needed for 21st century transformation projects.”
As part of the program, IBM segments its partners according to their skill level, what industries they serve, and their business model. In return for jumping through the appropriate hoops, IBM gives partners access to training and certification programs, authorization to sell certain products, and even sales leads.
From this point forward, only business partners who gain the requisite certifications and authorizations are entitled to sell so-called “authorized” software products. Basically, instead of just the five main product categories–DB2 (Info Management), Tivoli, Lotus, WebSphere, and Rational–IBM is requiring partners to obtain certifications for up to 15 different sub-categories. Partners lacking experience and skills will still be entitled to sell the so-called “open” products, such as WebSphere Application Server and IBM Express products, although some partners in the Software ValueNet program will still be able to sell certain Cognos, Optim, FileNet, and InfoSphere products that are now “authorized” products.
If partners want to continue selling authorized product, they must take certain steps to join the program. This includes joining PartnerWorld (if they’re not already a member), creating a “PartnerPlan” that documents their objectives, enrolling in the Value Advantage Plus and Software Value Incentive programs, and then applying for the specific Reseller Authorization groups for approval to resell particular “authorized” IBM products. To see what IBM product numbers fall into which reseller authorization groups, consult this handy 218-page PDF. (Pro hint: go to the last page to see the 17 authorization group categories.)
But it’s not all stick with IBM. Big Blue also dangled several carrots on Software Value Plus launch day. For the first time, IBM will refer prospective software deals worth up to $50,000 to qualified Software Value Plus partners. This is generous of IBM, which usually keeps the biggest and most profitable deals for its own inside sales teams.
IBM also announced it was making available to partners an array of training and certification programs around cloud computing, one of the hottest areas of IT right now. Under the new cloud architecture certification, IBM will vouch that certificate holders can design public and private cloud computing solutions based on IBM software. IBM will also hold a series “cloud camps.”
So, why cloud computing? IBM says it decided to incentivize the cloud as the result of the new Global Business Partner Profitability Survey it recently commissioned the Ronin Corporation to put together. According to the study, 50 percent of IBM’s top-tier software partners say they expect cloud computing to drive lots of profits over the next two years. Another 50 percent say consulting services is their top cloud opportunity.
IBM is also hosting 130 general purpose training sessions as part of its “skills initiative” to teach partners who are software vendors the basics of IBM’s go-to-market and cross selling strategies. IBM also announced it’s investing more than $130 million in marketing and demand-generation activities to help its partners.
Things just got a bit more complicated for IBM business partners. But the pace of change in the IT field is increasing relentlessly, so hopefully, from the customer’s viewpoint, the new Software Value Plus will truly differentiate the IT pros from the wannabes.
For more information on the Software Value Plus program, see www-304.ibm.com/partnerworld/wps/servlet/ContentHandler/svp.