IBM Canada president speaks on transformation

It’s been a little more than a year since Dan Fortin, took over as IBM Canada president from Ed Kilroy, and during that time the Quebec native said he has seen a transformation in the Canadian market.

The subsidiary grew faster than the Canadian IT industry did, a success Fortin bases on the strides IBM has made in transforming the company.

“The market votes with its dollars and they decide,” he said. “We do not break out results (in Canada), but we grew faster than the IT industry in Canada and we did it with some margin. We did not just clear the bar.”

The move comes in the form of a new approach towards dealing with customers. IBM Canada does not just want to deliver business problem-solving solutions, Fortin said, but also be part of the customer’s successful outcome.

To that end, the company re-organized its business engagements and bought PriceWaterhouseCoopers. IBM currently has more than 5,000 consultants.

The subsidiary will also take part in IBM’s global initiative to boost the number of partners in its network. Donn Atkins, general manager of the IBM global partners, recently announced at the company’s PartnerWorld conference that Big Blue is looking to increase its business partners by 5,000 around the world. About 1,400 or so will be targeted for the North American market. They will be made up of net new partners and some from partner reengagements.

“Our commitment to the channel is expanding. One of the things I was responsible for (in previous jobs) was the channel in North and South America. I watch other companies established floors and ceilings and we just supported them and let them do as much as they could. Our partner business grew faster than our business. Business partners took a bigger share of IBM last year and that is a positive indication that our partners will continue to be an important segment more than ever before,” Fortin said.

He has put in place a strategy to continue channel growth especially in services within the company’s global technology services group.

Business Transformation Outsourcing

Another shift in IBM’s plan is to business transformation outsourcing (BTO). According to Fortin, BTO is currently a $500 billion market globally. Fortin admits he has not broken down the Canadian opportunity in this area, but added that it does not matter because IBM is positioning itself as global player.

“BTO is emerging. People might outsource call centres or help desk but (BTO) takes on HR, procurement, finances and transforms the processes and than we run it for them. That is a fast growing market and customers are zeroing in on this,” he said.

BTO will also be a fast growing market for resellers, he added. “Partners are important in this new dynamic. We traditionally have had strong relations with VARs and resellers who do hardware and wrap around services and it is still strong. We deliver a significant percentage (of our business) today and we are expanding our business partner base to move into services.”

He added that Big Blue has always talked a good game about rolling over more services to the channel. Fortin believes BTO is a good channel play for the small enterprise and for SMB.

“The notion in many ways is we are moving from partnering to collaboration and we really need to focus on that for customer delivery and there is no end to that,” Fortin said.

Lenovo

IBM Canada’s sales team is still given incentives to push Lenovo product and deliver warranties and maintenance services. “We are still intertwined, and Murray (Wright, the president of Lenovo Canada) and I connect frequently.”

Lenovo is part of IBM transformation approach. Fortin said Lenovo helps IBM Canada deliver a full solution. “If they require an Intel desktop we know the best company for that,” he said.

Big Blue and Lenovo also share research and development and engage the customer as team, he added.

A year on the job

Fortin described his first year as IBM Canada president as being “terrific.”

He and his team have worked with customers of all sizes to fulfill what he sees as the company’s transformation. He believes that the change to ensuring customer success has brought job fulfillment to himself and to the 20,000 employees across Canada.

”It has allow me to get up early and stay awake at night,” he said.

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