Discover IBM Partner Ecosystem

Reimagining IBM’s partnership-led revenue model


Read time: 10 mins.

This content was first published under two articles on LinkedIn under the profile of Sabine VanderLinden and is being republished here. 

The autonomous driving market is a massive market that is evolving fast. According to Statista, autonomous vehicles are expected to account for about 12 percent of car registrations by 2030. Global car sales are expected to reach 101.4 million units that same year.

Still, we know that autonomous driving is not the safest yet.

When talking to IBM expert Annap Derebail, about why fatal incidents occur with autonomous vehicles and how they could be avoided, one angle discussed included edge computing and embedded intelligence, that can be manageable directly from a mobile device where data is accessible at the edge.

Many devices use embedded intelligent systems today besides car functionalities, like Point-of-Sale terminals, smart TVssmart meters, video surveillance equipment, traffic light controls, digital signs, and aviation controls, which lead to the need to understand how embedded intelligent systems operate and allow breakthroughs to emerge for established and new market players.

Why consider partner ecosystem-led Embedded Intelligence?

Embedded intelligence is a term used for a system or program that can analyze and monitor their operations and then adapt and optimize in real time with limited human intervention. They combine artificial intelligence, intelligent machines, and embedded software. They are inherent in some business processes, automation programs, or task-based resources. They enable companies to get smarter in deploying and using technology, identifying market opportunities and targeting new markets.

The global embedded intelligence market is projected to reach a market value of US$ 86 billion in 2032, increasing from US$ 25.5 billion in 2022 and expanding at a CAGR of 13.0% during the forecast period (Source: FMI.)

When I look at the future of IBM that Arvind has defined and that we’re executing towards, there are three big priorities – Hybrid Cloud and AI, Innovation and technical expertise, and the ecosystem.

Kate Woolley, IBM Ecosystem, General Manager.

Today, the lack of expertise and skills in Artificial Intelligence remains the most significant barrier to adopting advanced programming techniques by businesses, large and small, while limiting biases and ethical issues. Studies show that very few organizations have made tangible investments to ensure their employees and digital ecosystems access easy-to-use toolkits and resources to create and deliver value for their customer base. It is essential for data scientists, developers, sellers, and experts, among other types of users, to gain access to cutting-edge capabilities to learn new business development techniques and technological skills regardless of their level of expertise.

Partner ecosystems become crucial to accelerate such deployment. Think of a partner ecosystem as an interconnected system where companies, people, capabilities, and devices are combined and connected to create something differentiating (e.g., engagements or capabilities.) that is much greater than the individual parts of the entire partner ecosystem. Being part of a partner ecosystem means that all the participants are connected in the execution of one purpose, creating value for other partners and customers.

Like biological ecosystems and social systems, finding the right balance among all actors ensures all stakeholders’ effective and symbiotic collaboration. A well-formed strategic partnership helps create unique new value propositions. They also are a springboard for reaching more customers. Such ecosystems enable one type of user to unify their offer digitally against the needs of specific segments and facilitate the centralization of assessment, feedback provision, and choice-making.

Strategic partnerships enabled through artner ecosystems are where companies come together to solve the most demanding business problems.  At the same time, managing a partner ecosystem, including 1,000s of business and technology partners, is not simple to orchestrate.

I think of partner ecosystems as one of the most powerful forces in technology. That’s where companies come together to solve the toughest business problems.

Kate Woolley, IBM Ecosystem General Manager.

For years, IBM Research and Centres of Excellence have invested in developing AI capabilities embedded in IBM software offerings. IBM’s partnership strategy is brought together into one organization where all the pieces of the IBM Partner Ecosystem are operated within the sales and distribution organization and consolidated under one direction.

IBM is making the same capabilities available to its IBMers accessible to its ecosystem of partners, providing them a more straightforward path to create AI-powered solutions and accessing engagement materials to ensure that each ecosystem partner can create bullet-proofed propositions aligned with IBM’s high standards. The primary goal is to enable partners to provide their clients’ businesses with the resources required to build smarter enterprises.

This entails that IBM must consider the provision of the following:

  • Flexible and extensible resource libraries that are fit for purpose with dynamic implementation models across all tech themes (e.g., cloud, AI, Apps, infrastructure, security.)
  • Trustworthy AI modeling techniques that ensure that the businesses can deliver explainable, ethical, and fair AI models.
  • Robust and secure enterprise-grade security backed by 24/7 support that can run anywhere, from premises to the edge on mobile devices.

How do partners interact with the IBM ecosystem?

The IBM partner ecosystem does not fit into one single confined box. To fulfill partners’ needs, IBM had to consciously rebuild its ecosystem approach to simplify complex types of interactions and bring them to life. That’s the value of having consolidated strategic partnerships reiterating IBM executives’ ecosystem views.

There are three primary ways partners interact with IBM today.

  1. There’s the sales aspect, where IBM’s channel partners are selling IBM’s technology.
  2. There’s the building aspect, where IBM’s technology partners are building on or with IBM technology.
  3. There’s the service aspect, where IBM’s integration partners are building services around IBM’s products.

IBM Ecosystem’s general manager, Kate Woolley, reveals that to grow, IBM must become essential to existing partners and identify potential partners whose offerings complement IBM’s own ecosystem of products and services. For instance, IBM doubled the amount of brand-specialized resources that support IBM’s business partners and increased the technical resources supporting partners by 35%. To avoid conflict and reduce engagement friction with its technology partner ecosystem, IBM removed Kyndryl’s managed services from its portfolio, demonstrating how much strategic partnerships matter most to IBM than one solution.

Investing in the ecosystem’s skills and knowledge goes beyond a single internal team.

An ecosystem is a network where partners get easy access to the resource they need. Partners told IBM that the more expertise they attain in IBM’s product offerings they sell, the better equipped they are to win with clients. As a result, IBM rethought its overall upskilling program to make its resources not only available to internal IBMers but also to its partner ecosystem, a part of IBM’s ongoing commitment to becoming a core enabler for its partners’ businesses so that to achieve IBM’s goal of doubling revenue through the IBM Ecosystem in the next 3–5 years.

Today, partners within the IBM ecosystem have access to the same free training and upskilling tools as IBMers. The enablement materials and knowledge assets (e.g., hybrid cloud, AI, security, sustainability, integration, etc.) come at no cost. They can be accessed through a simplified digital experience to ensure that the businesses of the partner ecosystem get access to essential content to improve skills, understand the product portfolio, and to convert deals.

Importantly, all partnership types (including channel partnerships, referral partners or agency partners) now have access to those resources simultaneously as IBM sellers through a one-stop-shop digital learning hub that also eases credentialization and badging.

It’s now simpler than ever to find the right training at the right time and complete the desired coursework. Users will notice a more modernized and consistent experience on the IBM training site, making it easier to find resources.

Kate Woolley, IBM Ecosystem General Manager.

The badging program has be designed to ease sharing activities on professional social media platforms such as LinkedIn. These credentials travel too with the learner. Assets to upskill partners include:

  • Sales demos: guidance that involve partners and enable them to run their own successful demos for clients, including verbatim scripts that highlight the benefits of an offer
  • Seller presentations: essential templates to help win deals with a target market, including how to position each offering, co marketing opportunities and how to share advantages over competitors
  • Client presentations: ready-to-go assets for client meetings that highlight key benefits and advantages of IBM’s product and service offers
  • Digital prospecting: additional content that showcases IBM product capabilities that can be shared with clients, such as white papers, analyst reports, decks, and solutions briefs

Reverting to our embedded intelligence example! 

IBM expanded its embeddable AI software portfolio by releasing three new libraries designed to help IBM Ecosystem partners, clients and developers more easily, quickly and cost-effectively build their own AI-powered solutions and bring them to the marketplace.

The AI libraries were developed in IBM Research and designed to provide Independent Software Vendors across industries an easily scalable way to build natural language processing, speech-to-text, and text-to-speech capabilities into applications across any hybrid, multi-cloud environment.

The expanded portfolio provides access to the same AI libraries that power popular IBM Watson products, reducing skills shortages and alleviating the barriers to AI adoption.

“By bringing to market the same portfolio of embeddable AI technology that powers our industry-leading IBM Watson products, we are helping ecosystem partners more efficiently deliver AI experiences that can drive business value for their clients.” Kate Woolley, General Manager, IBM Ecosystem

The three new libraries available today for IBM ecosystem partners include innovations developed by IBM Research, open-source technology designed to reduce time to market and resources required for a developer to add powerful AI to an application. The capabilities include:

All these libraries are now available to IBMers and all partner types.

Remaining, re-joining, or entering IBM’s Partner Ecosystem: What does this entail? 

When evaluating IBM’s partner ecosystem program, it was interesting for me to review interviews ran as part of IBM’s Common Grounds video series on YouTube.

The partners engaged throughout the series echoed several vital reasons why the IBM ecosystem program works for established and new partners.

  1. It collectively addresses the digital transformation needs of customers: Working alongside other partners helps better capture the application and engineering value provided by IBM’s systems. With those technologies, applications, and solutions, customers can navigate uncertainty by ensuring the delivery of more predictable outcomes in the cloud and transforming their organizations into more resilient and responsive businesses.
  2. It enhances access to innovative thinking for channel partners: Commitment to the channel partners and the delivery of innovative thinking in the cloud. This helps clients build the modern applications they require to grow and scale their businesses in new ways, recognizing privacy and security policies to support a modern and digital workforce.
  3. It ensures that partners create and customize experiences that customers want: Understanding the market trends that affect customers daily is not an option on a to-do list. It is a requirement that can be optimized by effectively deploying technology partnerships. These partnerships result in projects and product roadmaps that matter most and impact customers’ outcomes. For instance, delivering systems that access the data, analytics, and integration required to detect and respond to client issues in minutes is essential to propel growth.
  4. It eases the industrialization and democratization of technologies: Companies want to ensure that their people can access the tools they need to be effective and flexible. To deploy agile and adaptable business models, companies must consider optimizing productivity by driving inclusivity while making it easy and enriching to decentralize working environments. They want to build resilient businesses regardless of uncertainties, how to use resources when needed, and reduce the use of those resources when not required, and this at the right price. To scale new developed products at record speed can only be achieved via well-architected infrastructure components that communicate securely with other systems.

Equity at the core of IBM’s Ecosystem Program

IBM’s partner ecosystem work resulted in improved deal registration split among partners and introduced to each of the partnerships more than 7,000 potential deals valued at over US$500 million globally. (Proprietary metrics obtained from IBM sales data, January 2022–August 2022.)

Partners that joined the program realised that IBM’s ultimate goal is to make it:

  • easier to work with through the redesign or core partner platforms to speed decision-making and streamline engagements
  • simpler to work with for partners with just a few clicks while using AI to allocate deals in minutes to the fittest partners.
  • Enriching to extend opportunities to the most suitable partners, generating new revenue streams faster by ensuring that the very best skilled experts are always on the job.

Make sure to review:

  1. review the link on IBM’s Embedded Intelligence capabilities
  2. review the link on IBM PartnerWorld


Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

Share this post