To help its partners generate more cloud business, IBM has introduced new training, tools and a financial incentive package at its PartnerWorld conference, being held this week in New Orleans.
"Most of our customers want to get out of managing IT, so there will be a big discussion around the cloud marketplace" at this year's conference, said Ed Abrams, IBM vice president of marketing for midmarket.
PartnerWorld is IBM's annual conference for its business partners, those IT system vendors and integrators that use IBM technologies and services to deliver systems to small and mid-size businesses (SMBs).
IBM's SMB strategy has been to support the many regional and specialized vendors that routinely sell to SMBs, rather than compete against these vendors for such customers.
SMBs "don't necessarily want to put their business on an enterprise level cloud, be it an IBM cloud or a competitor's cloud. They would prefer to deal with local managed service providers," Abrams said. The company has about 121,000 approved business partners.
"We continue to commit very heavily to making our partners successful. By doing so, we can be more successful," Abrams said.
For the conference, IBM has unveiled a number of new programs to help business partners better exploit IBM's cloud resources. The offerings will help IBM's partners "stay ahead of their competition," Abrams said.
One program, IBM SmartCloud Services, provides a directory of partners that specialize in specific IBM SmartCloud services, such as business applications, application development and security services. This will allow system builders to find partners with expertise in some area needed to complete a system.
IBM will also offer a series of virtual lectures on cloud services, called the IBM Tech Talk for Cloud Computing, on its IBM DeveloperWorks site. The series will cover topics such as how to use social networking services. A lot of small businesses haven't figured out yet how best to use social media, Abrams said. These classes will give partners tips on how to get their customers to productively use social media.
The company will also introduce a number of financial incentives that "will allow partners to integrate different hardware and software components," Abrams said. By combining multiple IBM hardware and software products into a single customer system, a partner can save up to 30 percent of the cost of the IBM products being procured. This bundling will allow partners "to get out of the IT shop and really get into their lines of business," Abrams said.
Finally, IBM has released a set of APIs (application programming interfaces) that can be used by partners to link their customer systems into SmartCloud for Social Business services, which may ease the sharing of profiles, contacts, meetings, files and communities data.
In addition to these enticements, IBM will also unveil a number of case studies this week at the conference, each showing how a business worked with a partner to use IBM services and software to improve some aspect of its operations.
For instance, IBM will show how Swiss market research firm Link Institute, along with IBM partner nViso, created a system to capture and analyze emotional responses of people watching television advertisements. Participants' reactions are caught on video, and IBM software scans the video for telltale signs of basic human emotions.
Another case study comes from online ticket sales vendor Tele Ticket Service. Tele Ticket, along with IBM partner Numius, developed a system that can watch ticket sales and tweak the prices and availability to improve sales, based on factors such as how quickly the tickets are selling.
IBM will also disclose more details on work it is doing, with Flagship Solutions Group, to equip the Miami Dolphins' Sun Life Stadium with a system to carry out such tasks as monitoring event traffic and analyzing sales of concessions and merchandise.
This year's PartnerWorld conference has attracted over 1,700 attendees, Abrams said. It will also host one of the first public presentations by IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, who assumed the role CEO in January.
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