The goal of the initiative, according to the announcement made at the IBM Impact 2010 conference in Las Vegas, is to help partners develop long-term relationships with IBM brand executives, industry experts, senior technical staff members, master inventors, and other technical leaders. In addition to acting as general problem-solvers, sounding boards, and ombudsmen, Lab Advocates will also serve to gather requirements from clients regarding possible new features and functionality.
The initiative was developed based on the observation that IBM's top 50 partners by revenue have one thing in common: Even if it's just through an informal arrangement, they're all plugged into an IBM lab.
"The Lab Advocates are experts in their areas, distinguished engineers, and master inventors," says Sandy Carter, VP of IBM Software Group Business Partners. "They're matched to the partners based on how the partners want to grow strategically, location, and language."
Lab Advocates are trained in best practices for client advocacy, with their responsibilities to the initiative codified in "Personal Business Commitments," a statement for IBM employees that lays out their formal job responsibilities.
Despite the extra commitment -- or perhaps because of it -- the program has enjoyed popular response within the company. "I have 5,000 people who truly want to do this," says Carter. "I was worried that I wouldn't have enough volunteers, but I had more than enough."
IBM provided two examples of how the IBM Technical and Industry Advocates program has worked in practice.
Ultramatics, a Tampa-based IBM Premier Business Partner, successfully accelerated the design and implementation of several business transformation initiatives using IBM technologies including business process management, service-oriented architecture, portal, and collaboration products for their clients in the banking, healthcare, and transportation industries."The Advocate program has directly contributed to our customer's successes, allowing Ultramatics to accelerate delivery on our commitments and ultimately on the promise of faster, more predictable implementations," said Saru Seshadri, Ultramatics president and CEO.
PayPal, an IBM Business Partner, has worked through the IBM Cloud Labs to extend PayPal X, its global open payments platform, into the cloud. Through direct collaboration with IBM technologists, PayPal will allow its ecosystem of developers to innovate on the IBM cloud so developers can quickly and easily monetize new applications made available via smartphones.
These examples demonstrate how expertise from IBM labs flows through the partner channel directly to IBM's end clients.
"Our clients' success often starts with the partner as the first point of contact," said Carter. "With a goal of helping our partners to succeed, these new resources can help our partners fuel innovation and accelerate 'Smarter Planet' projects with clients."