IBM has announced a service provider partnership program in Europe that
will have major implications on how large and small digital business service
providers (DBSPs) operate, not only in Europe, but also throughout the
world. For clients, it means one-stop shopping for technology and niche
services that run the gamut from legacy integration to branding services,
in a coordinated and joint way between the DBSP and IBM. It presents a
major challenge to legacy consultants on the continent, but its implications
The market trend to larger and more complex projects has forced a re-evaluation
by most DBSPs of their technology providers and legacy partnerships. These
partnerships are meant to assist them in delivering the new solutions
now wanted by their clients, and are crucial to their survival. On the
other side of the coin, IBM needs to familiarize the market with its technology
and, of course, sell the solutions and niche services offered by IBM Global
Services (IGS). IGS, though at times a competitor of most DBSPs, has the
capacity to deliver large legacy solutions, but is generally recognized
as lacking in design, branding and diverse technology application capabilities.
IBM recognizes it needs the help of more recognized service providers
in the field to get its message out.
organization the size of IBM has a great deal more to offer than the legacy
consultants such as Andersen, Deloitte, PwC and (in Europe) Cap Gemini
Ernst & Young. It actually has the technology to deploy and service to
back it up, both on a global scale. It is also the major hardware infrastructure
supplier for most companies of any size, worldwide. In setting up its
partnership program, IBM makes no bones about its capabilities, and is
willing to share those capabilities with its partners.
a joint announcement with AGENCY.com, marchFIRST.com and Organic.com -
notably all US based but with worldwide offices - IBM outlined its partnership
program. Currently, it has 280 partners in its European partnership with
the intent to reach 300 partners. Each partner agreement is individually
negotiated to encompass joint business objectives, market niche, company
localization, partner business goals and core competencies. Most agreements
cover joint marketing efforts, co-branding, joint technology delivery
and shared laboratory and development facilities.
partnership program has implications worldwide. IBM intends to roll it
out in Asia later this year, and with the increasing globalization / localization
demands of clients, experience gained from these ventures will migrate
back to North America.
for TEC's upcoming article on IBM's announcement for a fuller analysis.
This event should awaken many users to the fact that IBM has large-scale
solution offerings in the e-business space. IBM knows it has to gain market
share with its products, and part of its uphill battle is credibility
and awareness of its products. These IBM products have not seen as much
action because until recently most web projects were not scaled to make
full use of them.
partnership program of IBM obviously is directed at projects in the millions
of dollar range, and up. At this scale, legacy consultants have had the
edge over the upstart companies like Organic or Agency and marchFirst:
however, IBM's announcement should provide more grist to the mills of
users who are selecting technology partners on this scale.
of the problems with legacy consultants is that once they are involved
with your company, it can get very hard for you to keep your IT projects
and even your business under your own control. Although delivering value
is - or should be - the main goal of the legacy consultants, stories are
rampant about IT departments being overrun and corporate managers being
pushed aside. This is an image the legacy consultants are finding it important
to change as they seek market share in the e-business world. Their massive
presence in a company can be good or bad, depending on the service delivered
and the nature of the IT department that suffers the consequences.
newer consultancies have a very different culture that provides development,
knowledge transfer, continual support, and, for some now, the capacity
and depth to deliver legacy solutions with IBM. In turn, they can provide
an attractive career path for IT department technologists. In the new
economy, you should weigh both the good side and the bad side of losing
staff to your service provider. Such ties can actually enhance the quality
of service if they mean the service provider gains a better understanding
of your business, even though on the short term this could injure your
IT department. Also, these migrations may stop key personnel ending up
in competitive camps. Take account of the fact that it is likely you will
be engaged with your service provider for at least a year, and likely
long after that, as you continue to rely on them for maintaining you on
the leading edge. Also, given that IT turnover is generally well over
10%, an unhappy employee may want to make the move elsewhere anyway.
the partnership you may find yourself with IBM solutions and a focus on
IBM products, such as WebSphere, Lotus Domino & Notes, ThinkPads and RS/6000
machines. If you want other solutions, you may need to fight for them
and make your case - and you had better have some good technical people
on your side. However, this is not your father's IBM: even IGS offers
non-IBM competing solutions to its clients.
also aware, if you are offered a joint venture by an IBM partner that
will include IBM, that you may need to manage the joint relationship and
define clearly who does what for your best solution / cost advantage.
Americans should be aware that IGS in Europe has a different flavor than
IGS in North America. IGS in Europe is more a systems integrator than
a business consultant/partner, and consequently service provider partnerships
in Europe do differ in nature from the American model. On a worldwide
basis, such 'localization' may have some impact if your business is trans-national.