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IBM wants to get approximately 80 to 100 European headquartered ISVs into IBM's mid-market partner program by the end of 2003, up from the 50 or so in place today, writes Tony Lock of Bloor Research.

Andreas Wodtke, Director of IBM Developer Relations EMEA. stresses that these will be "real" relationships that have significant commitment on both sides. "This is not an effort to simply get ISVs to carry the brand."

With the growing focus of all IT vendors on the SMB sector it is worthwhile noting that IBM is putting much attention into this space. In fact the mid-market program referred to above, the ISV Advantage Agreement (IAA) program, is the area that is receiving increased resources.

IAA is actively looking to identify partnerships and establish them in the mid-market with all of the supporting services required (in terms of service delivery, maintenance and financial offerings) along with any marketing that may be needed.

Buell Duncan is the General Manager of Developer Relations at IBM and the man charged with extending the breadth and depth of the company's relationships with ISVs. In his words "IBM is dead serious about partnerships. IBM is not going to compete with its application vendor partners but will work to form dynamic relationships to benefit everyone, IBM, Partner and Customer. The next two to three years are going to be game changing."

For several years now IBM has been set on a path that seeks to embrace "partners" at the heart of many solutions. It is in the software area where much of the company's focus has centred.

At the core of its partnership drive IBM took the decision that it would use applications provided by its partners. The question for IBM is how to ensure that its application partners lead with IBM based infrastructure and middleware?

"Developer Relations" lies at the heart of IBM's relationships with the independent suppliers of software applications. This group within the company was set up to seek out software vendors, establish which of the ISVs provide applications that could form a good partnership and then manage the entire partnership process.

To manage such a potentially monumental task, IBM put a number of dedicated resources in place around the world. In addition to these full time Developer Relations resources, every member of staff within IBM forms part of an extended virtual team.

In each geography, Developer Relations is charged with responding to any partnership inquiry from an ISV. The European based team aims to respond to each initial contact requesting information on partnerships within 24 hours. The team checks all contacts, even those from 2 man companies to see if the solution offered can be enabled on IBM’s hardware and middleware platforms.

In addition to responding to requests from the application providers, developer relations is also at the heart of IBM’s own attempts to establish links to any vendor identified from within as of interest.

Staff in any area are asked to inform the group of any applications that they come across that may warrant a partnership. In this manner IBM has both Push and Pull mechanisms in place to establish ISV partnerships!

When it comes to identifying prospective partners, the company is obviously looking for applications that offer IBM the ability to sell more of its own hardware and middleware platforms whilst also increasing the potential for its Global Services group to gain work.

Beyond this IBM is keen to establish that any potential application partner has a similar commitment to the principal of open standards, especially Java and Linux / Open Source.

Whilst some new application partnerships may be established very quickly, it takes considerable effort by both IBM and the ISV to become established as one of IBM’s Strategic Partners. However IBM does have a number of partnership programs that cater for application vendors of all sizes and maturity.

Indeed, it is worthwhile noting that one of the tasks of Developer Relations is to identify emerging opportunities where the major pay off may not occur until 10 years into the future.

The company expends considerable effort in developing ISV partnerships and IBM is eager to let both customers and ISVs know that its target is not to generate large numbers of partnerships simply as a numbers race.

This approach rings bells with the vast majority of customers today. Organisations want to purchase complete solutions not Lego brick, self-assembly kits. The network of partners that IBM is bringing to the market is large and it is continuing to expand. When the resources of IBM Global Finance and IBM Global Services are added to the core hardware, middleware and partner application components it is clear that the partnership approach has the potential to deliver big benefits to customers, IBM and the ISVs, especially in the SMB arena.

© IT-Analysis.com

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