Ecosystem Leaders

Episode 152

November 7, 2022

#152 David La Rose: Strengthening Partner Commitments In The Ecosystem Era

In this episode Chip sat down with David La Rose, General Manager, Partner Ecosystem, Sales at IBM, to hear his insights on how IBM thinks about ...

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Since IBM CEO, Arvind Krishna first announced IBM’s commitment of over $1 billion to the IBM partner ecosystem almost 2 years ago, the company has been investing in programs, people, and technology to grow the IBM ecosystem, deliver more value to IBM partners, deliver on that promise.

And most recently just last monthly, Kate Woolley, IBM’s General Manager, IBM Ecosystems, announced an unprecedented new initiative opening up IBM internal training programs to partners so they have access to exactly the same level of training as IBM employees. 

It’s in that context that Chip sat down with David La Rose, General Manager, Partner Ecosystem, Sales at IBM, to hear his insights on how IBM thinks about partner ecosystems in the current market environment and beyond. We covered a number of interesting and valuable topics including: 

  • David’s global experience that led him to this role
  • IBM’s partner ecosystem priority and significant investment 
  • Being easy to partner with
  • Aligning partners for shared success
  • Ecosystem scaling and partner opportunities

A Global Partner Leader

David has a unique background that has prepared him well for his current global role at IBM. David began his career as a business unit executive with the PC Company in the early days in Australia, and then was tapped as a sales director in Japan for 6 years, China for another 5 years rising to the level of GM, and then as a GM leading the business in Central and Eastern Europe for another 3 years. A truly global resume. 

Global partnerships boil down to knowing how partners are motivated. For instance, Japan is focused on quality, so partner enablement is focused on education. On the other hand, partners in China are focused on expansion pace, specifically bringing solutions to all cities. 

David added that Kate Woolley, General Manager of IBM Ecosystem, ensures that global channels revert to the essential routes of partnerships–increasing the earnings capability of partners, introducing them to new opportunities, and heightening partner engagement. 

IBM’s Partner Ecosystem Priority

IBM placed billions of dollars into expanding its ecosystem as a part of its strategic priorities. With nearly 55,000 partners, the company is fully committed to its ecosystem by partnering with more global resellers, system integrators, ISVs, MSPs, and others. 

David’s focus is on sales partners including everything from distributors to value added resellers and others globally. 

IBM has been doubling the number of partner-facing resources this year, with an increase in the technical community service for partners by 35%. And recently, the company has reported 15% growth, with partnerships playing a significant role in that growth.

Being Easy to Partner With

When IBM started its journey expanding the partner ecosystem, David shared that the company’s main focus was partner ease of engagement. To do this, they've deployed the IBM Partner Portal – a digital front end for partner management.

David said it's about bringing all partner functions online and enabling everyone to move faster. From lead prospecting to partner incentives, IBM Partner Portal is a one-stop-shop for partners.

IBM has been on an aggressive path of bringing new capabilities online for partners every two weeks. The teams employ agile methods to hear requirements from partners around the globe from a partner advisory panel and turn those around quickly for new capabilities in the portal every two weeks. 

 IBM partners play significant roles in deal closing activities to grow revenue.

According to David, it's all about strengthening sales connectivity through their partner portal–identifying which deal to share, engaging partners throughout the deal, enabling their sales team, helping them win deals, and listening to their feedback.

Currently, IBM is sharing over 200 opportunities per week with its partners. 

Aligning Partners for Shared Success

Last month, the company opened up all internal sales content to partners. This move to equip partners and sellers with the same materials as they have shows IBM's significant commitment to their partners’ success.

David mentions that it's about sharing the same vision and having transparent engagement with partners. From prospecting to meeting with clients, their partners are now fully aligned with IBM to win deals.

David said their partners were skeptical at first. However, Kate personally talked to hundreds of global partners to understand their concerns on enablement. Ten months in, IBM is bringing in the engagement, transparency, and integration opportunities they promised. 

In addition, David added the importance of promoting IBM skills badges across the industry–for individuals or organizations. On the date we recorded the podcast, IBM had more than 3,000 enrollments in its Sales Foundation and Technical courses.

Ecosystem Scaling and Partner Opportunities

Scaling the ecosystem is all about clarifying how partners bring value and how IBM can reciprocate, David said. When partners are aligned, the right programs, benefits, enablement, and incentives follow.

David also shared that most partner opportunities continue to be focused on digital transformation, mainly on hybrid technology and AI. Because of this, IBM ensures that they get partners skilled in these areas. Sustainability, security, automation, and data are also vital dimensions other IT ecosystems should look into.

Above all, scaling and opportunity are about the value journey for customers, beyond purely reselling.

While reselling is fundamental, looking into what comes after the sale is essential. This is especially important for companies with service businesses as partners. The partnership should focus on activating and deploying these services to achieve customer success.

Wrapping Up

With IBM's full commitment to expanding its ecosystem, David said there's never been a better time to be an IBM partner. Businesses can expect ease of engagement and a highly lucrative portfolio that's easy to sell.

David also shared that people should not get distracted by the current noise about a potential downturn in the market. There are always business opportunities regardless of the market conditions. 

"Look for the next dollar of revenue because it's there," David said.

Follow David La Rose on Linkedin to stay updated on his work with IBM.

 Links & Resources

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