IBM is attempting to position itself as a credible independent software vendor (ISV) in the PC and Unix world by introducing a raft of new channel initiatives to try and woo third party VARs.
Although Big Blue has paid lip-service to cross-platform support for several years, the company now intends to seriously target resellers particularly in the Windows NT, Sun and Hewlett-Packard space, to encourage the adoption of its so-called software servers outside of its installed base.
Such offerings include its DB2 database, MQSeries messaging software and Lotus Domino for Notes. IBM is still evaluating whether to package the servers for specific vertical markets, but is likely to have reached a decision by the end of March.
Stephen Read, IBM?s software channels marketing executive, said: ?The game is all about market share. We want to win in the software marketplace and we?re aiming for no less than leadership. But, to do this, we can?t be restricted to IBM platforms and we need the skills of the channel to extend our reach. The channel is also a way to move into small and medium-sized businesses. It?s a way of gaining a foothold.?
As a result, IBM has introduced a specific initiative, the Multivendor Programme (MVP) to attract third party VARs. The first scheme to come out of this is ?Beyond NT?.
The company has already recruited and is starting to train approximately 10 Microsoft Solution Providers to its Besteam intiative, with the aim of either building on, complementing or competing against Microsoft?s BackOffice bundle.
The scheme will be rolled out to cover HP VARs in the second quarter and Sun?s channel in the third, and resellers will be particularly incentivised to offer training, technical support and consultancy on complex product sets such as MQSeries.
In a more general sense, one of the first strong marketing messages to come out of IBM in the second quarter of this year will be the suitability of its products to electronic business, particularly if based around transactional Web sites.
IBM will use the Lotus channel as the primary vehicle to push this message, hoping at the same time to generate pull-through sales for the rest of its offerings.
From the middle of this year, however, the company intends to introduce common terms and conditions for both IBM and Lotus VARs, with one contract covering all IBM products and one channel sales manager representing both parties.
Big Blue also plans to hold a European E-business Forum from April to June, which is intended to show customers the benefit of building their business around IBM. A ?Beyond the Internet 1997? programme will also take place under this banner and will be specifically targeted at the channel.
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