Mukul Mathur: IBM will focus on engage, enable and execute

IBM’s outlook to the channel is no more merely about certifications, but in recognizing competencies and customer delivery model that partners can bring to the table.

With the Dell-EMC consolidation, the enterprise IT space has been witnessing a highs and lows in the last year and half or so. 

Large players such as IBM have been tightening their channel strategy to meet the moving market trends. IBM, like most other vendors, had hardware and software playing out in its portfolio, and is slowly transitioning into a “stack portfolio” player. So, it is imperative to take this message to the channel partners, who form a critical part of the OEM go-to-market strategy. 

Elaborating on what has changed in IBM's channel stragey as well as in the PartnerWorld Program, Mukul Mathur, VP-Global Business Partners and System Integrators at IBM India and South Asia stated that conversations with partners were not being based on mere industry expertise or the number of certifications the partner organizations held, but on the basis of the competencies and the value the partner could bring on board. 

 Mathur also expostulated the three ‘E’s of IBM’s channel outlook: Engage, enable and execute. 

Engaging involves conversations and understanding what a partner can do, besides what he wants to do. “We explain what we have and then encourage partners to find things for themselves that will help their context,” Mathur says. 

IBM’s Bangalore Innovation Center is a hub for ISVs and partners, who are invited to come and have a first-hand experience of IBM’s offerings to customers. POCs are conducted for partners’ benefit. 

Enabling would entail creating platforms – both physical and digital – in the form of forums and events for partners to tell their stories and what they have to offer, to targeted customers. While a revenue expectation from partners still remains, the dynamic is still very flexible on what a partner can deliver than the absolute numbers he has to do, says Mathur.  Since the last year, IBM partners are also being tiered on verifiable client references than merely on revenues. 

Expanding the ecosystem – an evolving game 

While IBM has traditionally been a hardware and software vendor, the messaging of being a software, services and complete offerings provider now means different kinds of partners. IBM has been actively engaging with ISVs, sometimes pure-play companies too. “The last two-three years have been about how to carry forward the new IBM. One would be astonished to note that partners are doing real projects,” Mathur states. 

Mathur explains, “IBM is the forerunner in cognitive. We encourage young, disruptive companies to come forward and use Watson to leverage their offerings and talk to customers.” Vendors and partners alike are gauging the changing buyer landscape – from the CIOs to the lines of business or the business user: CMOs, CHRO, and other members of the CXO. For instance, some partners run promo campaigns for the CMO on the cloud. "We have seen a single partner help in targeted marketing, social analytics, persona mapping using Watson, cognitive analytics for one client, across the business user groups," Mathur says.

Encouraging different sets of companies to come together as a consortium is another initiative IBM has been driving for over a year. Unlike the earlier collaborations of a hardware partner matching strength with a software partner and the like, the current partner collaborations are about matching delivery models and striking customer conversations in areas of expertise, than solutions. Mathur adds, “Partners combining with each other enables clients to view everything in real terms, and enables them to make informed decisions around outcome based investments.” 

While large enterprise is still a large focus, IBM offerings, through partners, is scaling down into the commercial and the SME markets with the cloud consumption based model, since these segments are quite amenable to scale.