Humble IBM Successfully Engages MSPs, Pursues ISV Partners

A strikingly different IBM emerged at the company’s Think and PartnerWorld 2018 conferences here in Las Vegas this week. More than a decade into the MSP industry revolution, IBM has finally awoken with a humble, eager, engaged partnering attitude. MSPs and cloud ISVs here at the coordinated conferences are noticing and applauding the new IBM, though there’s more work to be done.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty

In terms of the big picture, CEO Ginni Rometty says the company’s reinvention phase — involving a multi-year journey — is now “largely complete.” The reinvention includes growing success in IBM’s strategic imperatives — areas like cognitive computing and Watson, IBM Cloud, security, social, and more.

There’s real progress on multiple fronts, reinforced by the fact that IBM’s overall quarterly revenues are finally growing again. Looking ahead, Rometty believes IBM can drive the next revolution — something akin to “Watson’s Law” — to help change the world, and drive positive customer outcomes.

Rometty’s reasoning goes like this:

  • Moore’s Law for microprocessing power and Metcalfe’s Law for network connections delivered incredible, connected processing power to the masses, and that power essentially grew exponentially.
  • Similarly, Watson’s Law will combine data and artificial intelligence (A.I.) to change the world again. But humans, working with computers, will drive the revolution — rather than removing humans from the cognitive computing equation, she says.

That’s the big picture from Rometty. But what does the scene look like when you zoom in on the IBM channel partner ecosystem?

IBM Channel Leadership: Humble, Motivated, Driving Change

Simply put, IBM’s channel team isn’t patting itself on the back. Yes, there are some clear partner program victories. But the revamped channel leadership team has also eaten some humble pie here and there at the conference.

Carola Cazenave, VP, IBM

John Teltsch, GM, IBM

During multiple meetings with ChannelE2E as well as fireside chats with media and analysts, IBM executives described an aggressive “work in progress” to build a next-generation channel.

John Teltsch, general manager for global business partners, is leading the partner program overhaul. His team includes a mix of fresh recruits from outside the company; established IBM channel veterans; and proven talent who previously made their mark elsewhere in the company.

Among the names to know: Carola Cazenave, VP for the IBM Global Business Partner Ecosystem Strategy and Programs. A career IBMer who has worked closely with entrepreneurs and security partners, Cazenave shifted to the partner team in January 2018. Her mission: Repeat and scale many of the security partner best practices and milestones across IBM’s broader partner ecosystem.

It won’t be easy. Speaking theoretically, IBM essentially is trying to design a single partner door that leads to a virtual mall — allowing partners to select, procure and deploy specific IBM products and services for end-customers.

IBM Gains MSP Partner Momentum

There are clear signs of progress on multiple partner fronts, particularly in the MSP ecosystem. Many of those partners have blended models, introducing managed services while also building out their own intellectual property.

Paolo Mazzo, CEO,

Three key example MSP partners include:

1. Paolo Mazza, CEO of The Italy-based MSP also is a Watson ISV that built a home-grown solution in the precision agriculture (PrecisionAG) market. Many traditional MSPs in the SMB sector, particularly HTG Peer Groups Founder Arlin Sorensen, point to PrecisionAG as a huge opportunity to revolutionize and automate the farming and agriculture industry through technologies including drones, GPS, artificial intelligence, big data, automation and more.

Mark Scott, CEO, CareWorx

2. Mark Scott, CEO of CareWorx, an MSP focused on the senior care market. CareWorx just raised $17 million in private equity funding, and also works closely with ServiceNow. So why is CareWorx attending IBM’s conferences this week? That’s confidential for now. But consider this: Scott previously was CEO and co-founder of N-able Technologies, one of the companies that pioneered the MSP software market.

Mark Wyllie, CEO, Flagship Solutions Group

3. Mark Wyllie, CEO of Flagship Solutions Group. More than an IBM hardware partner, Flagship has built out managed services and cognitive computing expertise. Also, Wyllie is a seasoned MSP industry executive, having previously worked at Compuquip — which sold off its MSP practice nearly a decade ago to All Covered. Key Flagship Solutions customers include the Atlanta Falcons, the Miami Marlins and NASCAR. Key development efforts include WeatherTrack, a real-time, weather insights dashboard, developed on the IBM Cloud and leveraging Flagship Solutions’ trademarked Infralytics methodology. Designed for NASCAR, the app will provide critical information including rain start and stop times, wind speed, lightning proximity, tornado/flash flood warnings, and more to help organizers optimize each event, according to the MSP.

The Magic of Intellectual Property: On the one hand, each of those MSPs is strikingly different from the other. But on the other hand, they each have three critical things in common:

  1. They’re working with IBM.
  2. They’re mastering recurring revenue services.
  3. They’re building intellectual property, the rarest and most important ingredient for an MSP that wants to increase its business valuation.

Note: ChannelE2E estimates that fewer than 1 percent of all MSPs truly have some form of their own intellectual property. We suspect fewer than 5 percent of all MSPs will ever develop and monetize IP in a profitable way.

Continue to page two of two for IBM’s earlier MSP missteps & course corrections. Plus, some partner program basics and next moves.

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