IBM wants VARs on Express Track

To fuel its presence in the small to mid-size business space, IBM has launched a US$100 million global initiative to add 5,000 new partners to its worldwide reseller base.

Called Express Track, the program is designed to provide increased coverage, sales, resources, demand generation and support for IBM’s SMB channel partners.

“With more than 50 per cent of our SMB revenue coming through partners — and SMB comprises around 20 per cent of our overall revenue — this is a very important area for us,” said Richard Michos, vice-president of IBM’s worldwide sales for small and medium business solutions and services.

Michos added that resellers will be more effective in delivering overall IBM technology solutions now with the addition of 300 staff providing sales support in their localities.

One of the main objectives, according to Michos, is for IBM to “open more outlets.”

“Maybe there are places in western U.S. or Alberta that are underserved by business partners and have little access to IBM enablement. Express Track is trying to help us open more outlets in areas where we see opportunity and advance our coverage, expand our resources and energies there,” he said.

Paul Myerson, channel analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group, said the additional 300 people is a big win for the channel.

“The vendors consistently throw tools over the wall but they’re not always the easiest things to find, so now they’ve got people who can lock step with the channel to show them how to be effective in utilizing the tools,” said Myerson.

Michos said IBM is committed to making life simpler for business partners when delivering IBM solutions and support to SMB customers.

“We’re investing in making our IT infrastructure such that partners can now log in to one place and get access to all the different systems and technologies through a single portal,” he said.

A new tool called Attach Connector, Michos explained, has been created for partners to configure a mock customer deal online using various IBM products and technologies to figure out system requirements, pricing and margins.

As part of its ongoing SMB market expansion focus throughout 2006, IBM said it has already enlisted over 2,500 business partners worldwide in the first half of the year.

Of the 2,500, the Canadian component was not disclosed. “We view Canada much like we view the U.S.,” said Michos. “By anybody’s rendering with regard to IT, Canada is viewed as a mature market. But much like the U.S. there’s still significant growth occurring, particularly in SMB.”

He added that IBM is doing everything it can to help partners in Canada further advance. “We view Canada as a good growth engine for us much like the Americas in general.”

For smaller resellers, Express Track is a huge benefit, said Myerson. “To develop these tools themselves, it’s too much of a time sink and most of them don’t do it. If it’s already built and they can access it easily and understand how to use it and it works for them, it’s a tremendous advantage,” he said.

Chris Burgess, director of sales at Waterloo, Ont.-based Net Direct said Express Track has given it the ability to rapidly turn around configurations for SMB clients.

An IBM business partner for three years, Burgess said “the pricing structure has been modeled well for the SMB marketplace, allowing us to bring many enterprise level solutions to that space.”

He added that part of Net Direct’s job is to educate price conscious SMBs on “the value of IBM versus the non-value of Dell.”

“In going through that process, the Express Track gives us the ability to say ‘this is all the value propositions that are part of that service whether its IBM Global Finance, the Express model of a specific server, managed services or education.’”

Burgess is pleased with the additional 300 support staff, and said that while Net Direct hasn’t run into any problems using Express Track, “I’ll probably try and use more of the resources that IBM is devoting to it.”

As part of Express Track, IBM is also highlighting its Express Seller product portfolio which includes Intel and AMD-based System x and BladeCentre server lines and entry-level storage.

According to Michos, the revenue of the products in the Express Seller portfolio, which launched earlier this year, is up 50 per cent year over year.

“We think that will grow even more with the additional resources, demand generation and enablement capabilities that fall under Express Track,” he said.

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