IBM's smart mid-market strategy

In most verticals, the market is evolving into a more matured phase of utilising converged IT infrastructure as a business enabler. According to IDC estimates, the market opportunity for the software, servers, technologies, and services to manage the world’s converged IT and physical infrastructure would reach $122 billion by 2012.
Targeting these opportunities, IBM has been driving its vision for a smarter planet, unveiled last November and dynamic infrastructure. According to IBM, businesses need to leverage technology to bring a new level of intelligence to how they operate. It expects its channel partners to take to market these new concepts that will enable manage the convergence of digital and physical infrastructure and thus help drive business efficiencies. It expects partners to enhance skills and competencies in areas like virtualization, consolidation, and energy efficiency.
Of late, it has started driving this strategy to the mid-market through its channel. An updated version of the IBM Business Partner Charter, the document’s first major revision in many years, reflects changes including the company’s "Smarter Planet" initiative and its renewed commitment to drive to mid-market customers through the channel.
Mourad Zohny, IBM Business Partners Organisation Manager in the Middle East says, “All initiatives announced worldwide are being announced to our partners here. At the BPEC, we updated our partners about dynamic infrastructure strategy, Smarter Planet etc. We want to ensure partners are up to speed with new approaches that IBM is taking to address the challenges in the new scenario. We talked about some examples in different places and we are extending those capabilities to our partners in the MENA region.”
Under the dynamic infrastructure strategy, IBM is helping companies build new, more dynamic infrastructures to help reduce costs, improve service, and manage risk.  The Big Blue has also added additional new dynamic infrastructure products and services. As a result, it claims that clients can better respond to and manage challenges presented by today’s globally integrated world.
Zohny says, “During the recent BPEC, we talked to our partners about examples in terms of applying smarter planet in real customer situations. The traditional approaches towards wider, faster, bigger machines do not work now. The need today is to improve business processes and improve cost efficiencies. We are trying to address the business problems with our solutions.”
IBM says that Dynamic Infrastructure offerings enable organisations not only to reduce costs but also to leverage innovation in-house and deliver value to their business, becoming smarter organisations that can better service their customers.
 “There are examples from other markets and we are capitalising from those experiences. We can jumpstart a little bit based on those experiences in this region,” says Zohny.

For instance, clients in other markets such as Kroger Foods and the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp. are working with IBM to develop smarter, more intelligent infrastructures that help reduce costs and improve services they provide to their customers.
The infrastructure technology helps clients manage and gain insight from an increasing number of things in their physical infrastructure that are being instrumented with intelligent sensors; analyze vast amounts of information; and become more "green" and cost efficient
Zohny adds, “The education initiative is the first phase wherein partners are brought to speed with the technologies and certified. The next phase would be actual engagement with customers to deliver those solutions.”
IBM recently also unveiled the new Data Protection Solution and BladeCenter Express serverBM POWER6 microprocessors to create the foundation for the dynamic infrastructure. In particular, these latest offerings for the mid-market address the growing need for dynamic infrastructure, business intelligence, energy efficiency and solutions for smarter work.  

A new way to sell
IBM is also taking a new approach to go to market. The vendor is offering new training and education to enable Business Partners to take the sales conversation all the way to the office of the CFO – making these Partners aware of the challenges that CFOs are facing today and what goes into their purchase decisions today.  With this new education program – “Selling to the CFO” – IBM claims its Business Partners are better able to discuss the value of a smarter infrastructure rather than simply its technical elements.
Zohny says, “We are coming up with a new approach to our partners in terms of enabling them to build a new approach into selling to a CFO profile customer. We felt it is important to understand the concerns of the customer, to help improve the bottomline. It is the CFO who is most concerned with the bottomline and we need our sellers to understand the best approach to a CFO who is concerned with controlling costs, increasing profits and as such. It is important to convince the customer on aspects like ROI. We want our sellers to demonstrate the savings over a period of two-three years to a customer.”
IBM partners will be trained to be able to identify ROI, and intelligently discuss financial metrics that go into a purchase decision.  The vendor believes that this fine-tuning of financial selling skills would be necessary for Business Partners to succeed in today’s environment.  Within this educational program, Partners will learn: fundamental financial metrics with an overview of income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow, how to assess each client’s value drivers and buying decision criteria, enabling tailored solutions aligned with each client’s needs CFO perspectives and the challenges that CFOs face in an uncertain economy as well as how to offer the right financing options to meet a customer’s budget constraints.
The vendor is unleashing incentives to its Business partners to drive mid-market business. Business Partner sales of IBM software to midmarket customers may be eligible for increases up to five percent in both the existing midmarket rebate and the Value Advantage Plus rebate — an overall improvement of up to 10% in available rewards.

The Big Blue drives its Smarter Planet initiative as well as advocates a new way of selling to its channel

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