IBM is looking to roll out a new "status match" scheme this year across its entire portfolio which will look to immediately on-board its competitors' partners before they've even completed training on its technology.
The scheme will mean a Dell EMC Titanium storage partner, for example, will be instantly put on the corresponding partner tier at IBM. Partners are given a grace period of six months to skill up on IBM's technology after being on-boarded.
Global channel boss John Teltsch said the initiative will allow new partners to start earning money with IBM in a matter of weeks, when it has historically taken up to eight months.
"It takes six, seven or eight months to get a contract signed with IBM as a partner. That's not agile," he said.
"We had one partner in Brazil and all they did was security. And it literally took us seven months before they really generated their first lead and their first IBM revenue. It was the perfect textbook example of what not to do.
"So we worked with Johan Arts [IBM Security's global channel boss] and I worked with Tom Rosamilia [SVP of IBM Systems], and we are now doing what I call status matching. So if you're a Splunk Platinum partner and you want to become an IBM security reseller, we're going to bring you in in seven to 14 days as an IBM Platinum partner.
"[It] started as a trial, as a test, and we've now replicated that model across storage, power and across some of the other software brands. And Rosamilia has been a huge fan of that. You're an EMC Platinum partner, they know a lot about storage, so I want to bring them into the programme immediately; don't make it six months. It took us six months to get this thing legal, but now we're there. And the uptake has been amazing. So we're really going to ramp that up this year across all our software brands."
According to IBM's director of partner ecosystem Jamie Mendez, the vendor aims to be running status matching across the entire IBM portfolio this year.
"The first product line was last year and we've been doing a new one every few months. So we're done with hardware and now security is up and then collaborate is up, which we're now divesting with the deal with HCL. So we're working on cloud now and we'll keep rolling through the rest of the product lines," she said.
As a result, partners will be able to attain top status with IBM Cloud if they have corresponding competencies with AWS, Azure or any other public cloud provider.
"We have to dissect it so say: what is the equivalent? We don't know what the credential levels are and that's what the teams go through when we set this up. They would look at AWS' credentialing levels and see how they compare to ours," said Mendez.
"The one thing we all have to be careful of is protecting the client. One partner could be called Titanium by one vendor, but their skill level could be what we'd consider as entry level. We don't want to give them Platinum and then signal to our clients that they're an expert when they're at entry level. We need to do some due diligence to set them at the appropriate skill level."
The status-match initiative was first trialled last year and has been positively received by IBM's distributor community, according to Teltsch.
Distributors will be relied on to support channel partners as they skill up on IBM during the six-month window after becoming an IBM partner.
IBM recruited 13,000 net new partners in 2018, two and a half times more than the previous year, according to Teltsch, thanks largely to its new status-matching scheme.
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