IBM Wants 5,000 New Partners

IBM is seeking 5,000 new partners worldwide, an initiative that marks its largest partner recruitment program in years. IBM also said Patrice Mitchell, a 30-year IBM veteran, will succeed departing channel executive Frank Vitagliano as vice president of global distribution channels.

Scott Campbell, Contributor

March 8, 2006

3 Min Read

IBM is seeking 5,000 new partners worldwide, an initiative that marks its largest partner recruitment program in years, said Donn Atkins, the company’s general manager of Global Business Partners.

The program--which touches all IBM product groups, including servers, storage, software and services--especially targets SMB solution providers selling rival products, Atkins said. He declined to say if IBM was taking aim at specific competitors in the recruitment.

“This is going to impact a lot of competitors. There are a lot of partners doing business with other companies, but I am not going to focus on [names],” Atkins said. “I have not said word one to our people on targeting a specific company. I am really targeting the partners, the opportunity, the synergy with what we have in place. There will be people hopefully not doing as much [business] with other [competitors], but my focus is not about that.”

The news comes on the eve of IBM’s PartnerWorld show in Las Vegas next week, as well as on the heels of the company losing one of its key channel executives, Frank Vitagliano, who helped drive the development of the new program. Its implementation now rests with Patrice Mitchell, a 30-year IBM veteran, who was named to succeed Vitagliano as vice president of global distribution channels.

“The good news from our perspective is that it is a natural transition. I am working with Frank [Vitagliano] to get those relationships he had, to keep things going,” said Mitchell, who will be introduced at PartnerWorld.

“My goal there is to meet the partners, find out what they need. The timing [of PartnerWorld] is pretty good. I will get an immersion course in understanding their business issues and set up the next steps with them. I want to understand what value they need from us,” Mitchell said.

IBM likely won’t recruit many partners at the conference, but the recruitment drive begins immediately, according to Atkins. “I talked to a lot of partners at [the CMP XChange Solution Provider conference in Atlanta] and asked them if they did business with us. A lot said they hadn’t, and it was because we hadn’t talked to them. That’s what Patrice is putting together,” he said.

IBM declined to give more details about the program, such as how it plans to bring the new partners on board. But Atkins said it would not be through any financing or other incentives that could impact current IBM solution providers.

“I don’t think we need to radically change incentives and financial programs. It’s more about coverage and enablement than anything else. That’s where we will start this equation. I think we have a model that resonates. It values the partners and our distributors,” Atkins said. “We are not interested in creating a lot of stacking. We are protecting the investment our current partners have made.

“The reality is partners that come to us have a good business with other companies,” he added. “The testing we’ve done says they’re very open to our value proposition. We’ve got them ID’d and assigned to territories with joint coverage approach and brand resources. This is a great opportunity to work together.”

John Paget, president of North America and COO at distributor Synnex, said he hadn’t heard about IBM’s new recruitment program but noted that IBM has been aggressive in the last three quarters in going after IBM solution providers that haven’t been very active.

“That’s been a significant investment on their part, and we’ve really grown that business over the last 10 months. If this new program is along that same vein, I am very excited about it,” Paget said.

Many of the targeted partners will be customers of Ingram Micro, Tech Data and Synnex and will be sought to sell solutions around xSeries servers, Atkins said. “It’s smaller partners. We’ll have a big play in the Intel server space, but the resources will come from storage, software and services,” he said.

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