PartnerWorld Tightens Channel

Looking for ways to improve relationships with its Business Partners, IBM has formed a new program called PartnerWorld. This program is designed to increase Business Partner revenue opportunities, providing IBM's partners an easier way of doing business through access to a single online portal and rewarding the partners who invest the most in IBM's Business Partner program.

"The end goal is to make the partner the most highly skilled, effective resource they can be to fit the needs of [the IBM customer]," says Randy Filinski, IBM's director of global Business Partner programs.

The benefits of PartnerWorld are expected to be twofold -- Business Partners will be able to work more easily with IBM and end users will be able to get IBM products quicker, something IBM desperately wants. According to Filinski, IBM’s Business Partners currently sell, fulfill or influence 35 to 40 percent of IBM’s revenues. "This way our partners will sell more of IBM’s portfolio and move products quicker to meet the needs of our customers," he says.

In the past, many of IBM's partner programs were supported by various Web sites, which required different registration processes, often a time-consuming process. For example, Filinski says a Business Partner had to go through various programs and Web sites even if they were selling AS/400s exclusively. As part of PartnerWorld, enhanced functionality and content will be introduced to transform PartnerInfo into the Web portal that provides a single point of entry into IBM's e-business Web sites for Business Partners, consolidating the nearly 120 existing Web sites and eliminating multiple registration processes. ParterInfo is a worldwide electronic interface that enables IBM Business Partner to access marketing, technical and financing information, order, track and trace their products.

"The portal will be a major milestone in PartnerWorld," Filinski says. Instead of having to go through various Web sites, each partner will log onto this portal and choose from there which programs they want to enter.

"IBM is a huge company with a lot of projects going on," says Janet Waxman, program director of systems and storage distribution channels for International Data Corp. (Framingham, Mass.). "I think this single portal is going to be a great asset to its partners because it will be a lot easier to do business with [IBM]."

PartnerWorld will integrate more than 50 existing programs for Business Partners within IBM, while maintaining the unique strengths of each program. Over time, Business Partners will be supported by up to four tracks, based on the partner's business model and how they conduct business with IBM. The first three tracks of PartnerWorld will support IBM technologies: PCs and related products; software products from IBM, Lotus and CorePoint Technologies; and servers, networking, storage and point-of-sale products. The fourth track will support developers, including Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), who create, market and sell software and services to address the end users' needs.

Looking to reward those partners who invest the most time, effort and money in the Business Partner program, IBM has developed a tiered membership structure for PartnerWorld. "The benefits are commiserate with their investment levels," Filinski says. The three levels of membership in PartnerWorld are Member, Advanced and Premier. Though IBM plans to first look to its Premier members when business opportunities arise, Filinski says plenty of these opportunities will filter down to the Advanced- and Member-level partners. Filinski also adds that the Advanced- and Member-level partners have the opportunity to move up the tiered structure of PartnerWorld.

Chouinard & Myhre Inc. is a Cotati, Calif.-based IBM Business Partner that focuses heavily on the AS/400 platform, which accounts for 80 percent of the company's hardware sales. "We work really close with IBM, so I’ve never had a big problem," says Hal Chouinard, president of Chouinard & Myhre Inc. "But the concept of PartnerWorld sounds great. Direct contact with IBM seemed to be fading a few years back, but I think it will benefit those partners who get a single point of contact. IBM’s commitment will help me offer my customers complete solutions."

Despite having approximately 45,000 Business Partners at present, Filinski says IBM is looking to obtain more through PartnerWorld. "We’re looking to get a whole new set of business partners," he says, adding that IBM is already targeting a campaign toward attracting Web integrator companies.