When the new IBM PartnerWorld channel partner program launched on January 1, 2017, it was no small feat. IBM previewed the partner program enhancements during the PartnerWorld 2016 conference back in February 2016. Then, the company carefully built out the program content to support IBM partners across the company.
At first glance, IBM's partner efforts focus heavily on cognitive computing -- essentially the next big waves in analytics, business intelligence, big data computing and artificial intelligence. But take a closer look and the program touches every part of IBM and its partner ecosystem -- including strategic imperatives like cloud, mobile, social and security. "We're absolutely covering the swath of our portfolio," says Jamie Mendez, director, IBM PartnerWorld.
Among IBM's top priorities this past year: Building out education roadmaps and enablement roadmaps for partners, Mendez adds. The company has also updated its testing and demo efforts, to ensure partners have more flexibility for training and customer trials.
At this point, IBM is in "deep listening mode" and also closely tracking partner program analytics. The company is committed to making "real-time tweaks" to the program when needed. Also, IBM is gearing up to focus on more specialized partner skills in such areas as cloud computing and security. Details may emerge at the next IBM PartnerWorld 2017 conference, set for February in Las Vegas.
IBM Strategic Imperatives: Glass Half Full?
The IBM PartnerWorld program enhancements come at a critical time for the company and its partner ecosystem. IBM's overall revenues have declined for 19 consecutive quarters amid enterprise IT's shift from hardware and software to cloud and managed services.
Still, there are signs of progress within IBM and across the company's partner ecosystem. Revenue from IBM's strategic imperatives -- cognitive, cloud, mobile, social and security -- continues to climb. In fact, revenues from those areas of the business will likely exceed 50 percent of IBM's overall revenues by 2018 or so, according to BMO Capital Markets.
Meanwhile, partners are embracing new areas like BlueMix -- a cloud platform for building, managing and running applications. Although Microsoft and Amazon Web Services (AWS) frequently dominate public cloud headlines, IBM certainly has the ear of many CIOs. Among the anecdotal evidence: The company's cloud services revenues had an $8.6 billion annual run rate at the end of 2016, up 61 percent from 2015's annual run rate.
No doubt, IBM and many of its business partners continue to face challenges -- especially as Microsoft Azure and AWS momentum seemingly emerge as public cloud leaders. I don't believe IBM owns any of the world's Top 25 SaaS and cloud applications as of January 2017 -- though the company certainly has relationships with SaaS leaders like Workday and SAP.
So where does IBM go from here? No doubt, more partner program fine-tuning -- and some surprises at PartnerWorld 2017 in February.