IBM has urged its reseller partners to pivot their business as it announces programme changes that put a heavier emphasis on building IP and services.
Big Blue has added two new incentive tracks to its PartnerWorld programme; a "Build" track that rewards partners for developing their own IP and bespoke solutions on IBM's platform or those of other cloud providers and a "Service" track which rewards partners for embedding IBM cloud solutions into their own services offerings.
The two new programme pathways will sit alongside its longstanding "Sell" track, which rewards partners based on selling IBM products.
The programme was officially launched on 5 May and will come into effect on 1 July.
Speaking to Channel Partner Insight, GM for IBM's partner ecosystem, David La Rose, said the programme changes are in line with its shift to hybrid cloud following its $34bn acquisition of Red Hat in 2018.
La Rose urged IBM's 10,000 active partners to invest in the new Build and Service tracks, claiming partners that continue to focus solely on the traditional Sell track will find themselves making less money with IBM in the future.
"If partners do the same sales motion they did in 2019 in 2021, they will earn less money, so this is a pivot [away from the Sell track]," he said.
"We absolutely want to bring those partners with us. That's where the bulk of our revenue stream is today so we have to bring those partners with us."
He added: "We are asking them to pivot… They can continue to be a resell partner, but the market is shifting, so the opportunity in the market for them over time is going to be reduced. This is certainty intended to encourage them to build other business streams and models inside their current business to be lucrative on the other side of this."
La Rose said the programme changes will mean partners will earn more money in new areas where IBM wants to expand its coverage, or so-called "partner-led" territories, and less in sectors of the market where IBM already has a strong client base.
"We have IBM sellers that are also supporting a set of clients, and we have a lot of our own resources there. So we will pay our partners less in that space and pay them a lot more in the spaces where we have less coverage or we have no coverage. Partners can make a significant amount of money as it relates to partner-led territories. And those partner-led territories are getting bigger. I would envisage as we get into 2021 it will continue to get bigger."
The programme officially goes live on 1 July, but there will be a further "transition period" between July and September during which IBM will gather feedback from partners and make tweaks and adjustments to the programme.
La Rose said the programme will also encourage new breeds of partner to join IBM.
"Our hope here is to attract through the Build track and the Service track a set of partners that are less interested in the resell of a product, and more interested in embedding IBM technology into their solutions and building on our platform," he said.
"Partners make the majority of their money around building their own services capability. And we haven't done anything in the past to help them do that. So this is all about attracting that set of partners now as well."
La Rose said the incentive changes could dramatically alter IBM's partner ecosystem in the years to come, claiming that some partners will emerge and some will disappear from the top tier of IBM's programme as a result.
He said that a change in leadership at the top of Big Blue, with Red Hat boss Jim Whitehurst becoming president and Arvind Krishna taking the CEO mantle, means that IBM is a different beast to what it was three years ago.
"It was a very clear message from [Krishna] around going after the cloud and AI battle and winning that battle. To do that we need an entrepreneurial mindset and we need our partners."
IBM claims the programme changes come after a six to nine-month period in which IBM has reshaped its cloud offerings through integrating the IBM Cloud and Red Hat businesses.
The vendor has containerised its middleware and software offerings into Cloud Paks running on Red Hat's OpenShift platform.
IBM has also launched several IBM partner packages that bundle in Cloud and Cognitive solutions for resellers to develop and test solutions to bring to market.
The vendor giant claims it has also opened a new partner support desk that offers support via phone, email or chat.
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