The Evolving Role of Channel Partners in the New Normal: Part 2

In this article, DSA continues the conversation regarding the evolving role of IT channel partners with Jason Chen, IBM Systems Country General Manager. In the first part of the interview, Jason spoke about how much things have changed for IBM and its partners to keep up with the evolving tech demands and business objectives of customers (which you can read in full here).

Nevertheless, the pandemic, which caught everyone by surprise, has undoubtedly changed the IT and business landscape even further. In this final part of the interview, Jason shares his views on how enterprises have had to refocus their procurement strategies in order to adjust to the new normal and what it means for tech vendors like IBM and their partners in the ecosystem.

Addressing Challenges Post-COVID-19
When remote working became a necessity during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, organisations around the world were forced to execute their business continuity plans. Their reliance on remote working practices grew significantly, however, many did not expect the situation to last as long as it has to eventually become what’s now called the “new normal”.
Many businesses found that they had to accelerate digital transformation and expand their technology to support the increased demands of remote working. From additional security measures for remote working solutions to improved storage capabilities due to increasing data growth, there’s a lot more for businesses to consider in order to ensure operations are resilient and able to accommodate future innovation.
Hence, according to Jason, IBM has sharpened its focus on fine-tuning its offerings in order to address the needs clients have in the current environment. “We have provided a framework to our partners on what we call the “Big 7 Needs” clients have and focus on solutions which reduce operational cost, re-optimise their environments to enhance IT resiliency, enable remote users and accelerate efficiency with the cloud”.
He then explained further, “Our Storage Utility offerings are designed to reduce operational cost and infrastructure. The cyber resiliency optimisation workshops help clients enhance their storage resiliency, while our Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud helps with enabling a multi-cloud storage environment. Apart from this, we have also provided various stimulation packages to our partners to help them manage their cashflows, give them access to tools to enhance their digital marketing skills and others”.

Fulfilling the Rising Demand for Channel Ecosystems
With more than 75% of IBM’s products sold via channel partners, there is no doubt as to why they play a huge role for tech vendors. Jason pointed out that client relationships and the ability to offer end to end solutions are primarily the key benefits partners bring with them.
Jason explained that the channel ecosystem today is no longer a hierarchal chain but more of a mesh network. Clients are actively seeking ecosystems and not just products and point solutions. For an ecosystem to be successful, there have to be data collaborations, talent pooling and a platform where participants have access to new offerings and capabilities as well as expanded revenue pools and great efficiencies.
“IBM’s announcement on Partner to Partner connect is one such example. Here we proactively match skill sets and recommend partners to partners, with a view of building vertical-focused solutions and access to complementary skills”.
As IDC predicts 30% of overall revenue shall come by P2P collaboration and Jason believes clients would benefit immensely by engaging through such ecosystems and platforms instead of point solutions from technology vendors.
Highlighting his favourite partner transformation story, Jason then told us about a partner based in Thailand who was looking to pivot their business from that of a point product sale to a model of sustainability and recurring profitability.  As a hardware reseller, the partner started to experience a change in customer buying behaviour. Customers were demanding offerings and solutions that were more dynamic, nimble and cost-sensitive. Yet, they did not want to forgo the quality and service level agreements which the partner had offered.
Jason said the partner came to IBM asking for help to transform its business; seeking to remain relevant yet leveraging their core strength around IBM’s Storage technology. IBM took the lead to work with the partner to help build its managed services capabilities.
“We provided our FS5000 as an anchor from which the partner built his Service IP around the technology, offering this as a managed service to his client. By transforming from a hardware seller to a managed service provider, the partner was able to be agile and rapidly adapt to the needs of his clients”.
Such scenarios are what make channel partners a valuable asset to be both technology vendors and customers as well. In order to have a positive outcome for all parties, partners need to continue to be able to adapt to the demands of their customers and channel those demands to the vendors like IBM.

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