Lata Singh, Director, Partner Ecosystem, IBM India & South Asia, discusses about the challenges in partners’ work and how she is helping them to meet these challenges.
What are the challenges you face in your work during the hard times of post-lockdown?
Lata Singh – At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, every organisation faced similar challenges which included focusing on employee health and wellness, followed by keeping them engaged in a remote working model.
At IBM, the wellbeing of our employees and their families continues to be our utmost priority and hence our efforts were focused on ensuring that our colleagues were able to manage their work and more importantly take care of themselves and their families. We started providing our employees 24/7 information regarding the crisis and organized a host of sessions focusing on their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being, establishing routines while working from home, and launched engagement activities like virtual coffee connects and ‘ask me anything’ sessions to ensure we maintained our culture of openness. This year, we will continue our focus on wellness and launch new engagement initiatives.
Like most businesses our second priority was to ensure business continuity while minimizing disruptions for our customers and helping them accelerate their digital agenda. To address this, we launched training programs for our employees to quickly transition and embrace new ways of interacting and working with clients and their colleagues. We provided cybersecurity training specifically for remote work and ensured our policies were up-to-date. For our clients and partners, we had to overcome disruptions in the supply chain by finding new ways to ensure that our products were not only delivered on time but also deployed for our customers while adhering to the local regulations. In addition, we provided continuous support to our partner ecosystem, since they in turn were enabling numerous enterprises to fast track their digital transformation journey. It required us to quickly adapt and launch digital resources, virtual skilling programs, and engagement solutions to support them through the challenging times.
While the pandemic caused disruption in the long term it has been a catalyst for accelerating innovations and digital transformation which would have otherwise spanned over five-six years is now happening in two years.
How are you helping the channel partners to come out of their difficult times?
Lata Singh – At IBM, we believe in empowering our partners to build unmatched expertise in their field and differentiate themselves in a competitive market by providing them with resources, skills and capabilities. In India, we have introduced a range of initiatives to enable our partners navigate through the changing business landscape including the following –
- Digital resources like Digital workshop which provides access to key virtual selling, training & learning tools and IBM Virtual Client Centre which provides 24/7 access to solutions, demos, webinars etc.
- Skills enablement programs like IBM Skills Gateway which provides access to digital badges and professional certifications and Seismicwhich offers a range of enablement materials on demand and
- Engagement solutions like My Digital Marketing which is a no-cost digital collaboration platform offering ‘ready-to execute’ digital campaigns, this initiative was well appreciated by our partners.
In addition, we also launched the Business Partner Connect which offers both IBM and Red Hat partners the ability to discover new collaboration opportunities, by leveraging Watson’s matching technology to help them find the right tools for shifting business needs.
We have also collaborated with our business partners to modernise their back-office processes for example Sonalika International Tractors, was able to deploy a robust scalable environment with boost in performance for key back-office processes and 99.999% availability through the support of our business partner, Tech9labs and Tamil Nadu Newsprint and Papers Limited has gained the headroom it needed to continue the rapid expansion of their business with the support of IBM Silver Business Partner SBA Info Solutions.
In addition to collaborating and supporting our partners, we continue to drive value for our partners by enabling them with skills to accelerate development of value-added offerings based on their Intellectual Property (IP) using IBM technologies. Our ecosystem plays a key role in helping their clients reimagine resilient business platforms as they move from “cognitive chaos” brought about by complex IT landscapes to an ‘insights driven organization’ through the capability they have built on IBM Solutions.
How are you helping the channel partners to migrate to Cloud?
Lata Singh – We believe that clients benefit most when they have an ecosystem of partners working together to offer the best platforms, products, and services. Last year, IBM committed $1bn investment globally to help partners provide their clients with a seamless and secure journey to the cloud. In addition to financial investments we introduced program enhancements and simplification, to drive growth, enable innovation and provide value to our partners. Some of these global initiatives include the launch of Hybrid Cloud Ecosystem, Partner World 2.0, Red Hat Marketplace and Industry Cloud Ecosystem.
Aligned with our mission of driving value for our clients, last year in addition to the ‘sell’ track we introduced the ‘Build’ and ‘Service’ track in our PartnerWorld 2.0 program. This enables our ecosystem partners to build and deploy their solutions leveraging IBM’s Open Hybrid Cloud platform while infusing technologies like AI, Blockchain, Automation and Edge.
This year we will broaden and deepen our ecosystem collaboration to deliver consistent client experiences based on ‘how clients want to engage with us and co-create and co-innovate to make their journey to Cloud & AI seamless. We will bring the best mix of experts, enablement and incentives to help our partners get to market and go to market their way. This includes –
- Simplified coveragethrough a single focal to provide a personalized partner experience
- Alignment with IBM sellersto exclusively work with partners which will help them drive growth, identify opportunities and deals across all three partner tracks (Build, Service, Sell)
- Deep technical supportto help them architect solutions with IBM technology
- Hybrid cloud build resourcesto help partners design, build and/or migrate solutions with IBM systems and software technology built for hybrid cloud and
- Creating opportunities to drive demand and partner success through
additional demand generation and cloud engagement funds, and digital campaigns to identify new opportunities based on client buying behaviours.
How has been the response from the Channel community in this regard?
Lata Singh – The response from the ecosystem partners has been extremely positive. In India, last year we continued to expand and deepen our relationships with GSIs, ISVs, VARs, VADs and others to help them Build, Service and Sell with IBM. Last year leading Global System Integrators like Infosys, TCS, Wipro and Tech Mahindra joined our Hybrid Cloud ecosystem and our technical experts have worked closely with these partners to co-create and co-innovate solutions. The channel community has in the last year also increased the portfolio of solutions from IBM that they are adopting to deliver services to their clients. Hence we are seeing more ecosystem partners.
The COVID 19 crisis has highlighted the fact that partnership is about mutual trust and a common goal to make the most of a downturn. In addition to the host of digital resources, skill enablement programs and engagement solutions like Digital Workshops, My Digital Marketing, IBM Virtual Client Centre and more we supported the varied requirements of our partner ecosystem through a range of initiatives –
- Launched special set of offerings: Several of our clients and partners have had to re-evaluate their IT strategy in the short and medium term. To address this requirement, IBM launched a special set of offerings to cater to the increased demand for Cloud solutions, Cybersecurity, Remote Workforce and Business Continuity Planning and some specifically to assist our channel business partners.
- Shared best practices: Partners who were looking at expanding their service offerings and improving capabilities were offered technical guidance as well as the option of taking the IBM service offerings to their clients.
- Supported our partners in minimising impact for their customers: During the lockdown Envision Enterprise Solutions, Gold business partner for IBM Maximo had to come up with an alternative strategy to support the ongoing projects for Ports, Terminals and Logistics industry without any interruptions. IBM helped in planning for remote work provisioning by bringing required changes for network infrastructure so that their customer’s onsite team could continue to work from home and support their customers.
- Introduced IBM Hybrid Cloud Build Team: As a part of our Hybrid Cloud Ecosystem initiative, we recently launched the IBM Hybrid Cloud Build Team dedicated to accelerating modernization across the partner ecosystem. In India the team has co-developed a solution with LTI to help insurance agencies leverage social media reviews of businesses to help identify potential risks associated with insuring those companies.
With rapid convergence of cloud platforms with technologies like 5G, Edge, IoT, Blockchain, this year our focus is to strengthen our relationships with Global Systems Integrators and Managed Service Providers (MSPs) while expanding our ecosystem to bring in Individual Software Vendors (ISVs) and the next generation of “non-traditional” partners. This expansion will bring together deep domain expertise from the partners and the best of IBM Hybrid Cloud and AI capabilities to drive value for clients and the industry.