IBM strengthens channel focus

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IBM's new SMB-focused Value Advantage Plus program strengthens Big Blue's commitment to the Australian channel, according to Avnet, one of three distributors delivering the program.

Australian partners accessing Value Advantage Plus (VAP) can get up to US$15,000 compensation for IBM software training and standardised, simplified margins no longer linked to the number of customer seats.

Michael Costigan, national marketing manager at IBM value-added distributor Avnet, said VAP's main benefit was that it was not based purely on volume.

Benefits would flow through to SMBs--which represent most Australian businesses--as well as large corporate clients. “Which is our kind of sweet spot. We do see this as an improvement on what IBM has done before for their partners, with IBM really focusing on go-to-market through the channel rather than against the channel,” Costigan said.

The other distributors for the program are Alstom IT and Express Data (ED).

Costigan did not deny that IBM historically had been known for its focus on direct selling to corporate clients, pointing out that many vendors were guilty of the same thing. “But [more recently] I believe IBM is a very channel-friendly organisation,” he said. Costigan said that the US$15,000 compensation grant held its own well against offerings from similar vendors, but the services offered around that were what sealed the deal for partners seeking to develop different specific markets for IBM.“Everyone's got a [technology] solution, but you've got to promote the benefits to the end-user,” he said.

Duncan Hewett, SMB channel manager at IBM Software, said the vendor had introduced the program in the wake of the success of last year's Top Contributor initiative. “We still run that this year, and what we saw was that where partners were investing in skills that deliver the value to customers is they get revenue growth,” he said.

VAP was available to all partners via Avnet, Alstom and ED and should encourage system integrators and independent software vendors in particular to bring SMB-focused products and services to market, he said. “We spent quite a bit of time [with partners] before releasing this, to give them a localised version of a worldwide [IBM] program,” Hewett said.

As part of VAP, the three distributors will assist IBM partners to develop business plans, marketing plans and financial resources, he said.


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