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Ecosystem Leaders

Episode 180

June 26, 2023

#180 Meredith Stowell: Building Partnerships for Global Growth

In this Ecosystem Aces Podcast episode, Chip Rodgers, Chief Partner Officer, WorkSpan is joined by Meredith Stowell, VP, Ecosystem, IBM zSystems and LinuxONE, IBM.

In this Ecosystem Aces Podcast episode, Chip Rodgers, Chief Partner Officer, WorkSpan is joined by Meredith Stowell, VP, Ecosystem, IBM zSystems and LinuxONE, IBM.

Meredith is a highly experienced IT professional with over 20 years in the industry. Currently, as the Vice President of IBM, she is focused on building critical IT skills and fostering a strong partner community. Meredith’s expertise includes working with a wide range of IBM software solutions and leading developer outreach activities, such as hackathons, meetups, and trial programs, to build a vibrant ecosystem of solutions for IBM zSystems and LinuxONE platforms.

Topics covered include:

  • The role of the ecosystem in the virtual enterprise - 7:00
  • Leveraging IBM’s ecosystem - 15:16
  • How to develop a differentiated value proposition - 21:40
  • How do you optimize performance testing? - 27:08
  • Advice on how to build a community - 29:42

Chip Rodgers  00:07

Hey, welcome everyone. Welcome back to another episode of ecosystem aces. I am excited to be joined this morning by Meredith Stowell. Meredith welcome.

Meredith Stowell  00:18

Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I'm very excited to be here and talk about the ecosystem with you.

Chip Rodgers  00:24

Let me just introduce Meredith a little bit. Meredith has over 17 years of experience, with IBM, previously with Cognos and a number of many roles, really interesting roles that bring you to where you are today at IBM. And Meredith is the vice president of ecosystems for for IBM z Systems, which is,a lot of open source, capabilities and your background at IBM, what, bringing communities together getting communities excited ISV communities and developer communities really puts you in a tremendous position to be able to, to rally the troops and build communities around these systems. 

Let's start there and Meredith if you could, just talk a little bit about your personal journey. And then what is it that you and your team are up to, at IBM z systems these days?

Meredith Stowell  01:50

I lead our IBM z Systems and Linux one ecosystem. So that includes working with our partners that build applications on top of our platform, the open source community, the overall community, truly building a vibrant, sustainable, diverse community to surround this amazing platform. And really bringing everybody together and including building skills and talent for the future. 

So it's interesting, I look back, and I think, how in the world did I get to where I am today? Because I think if you'd asked me in college, where my career would land, I definitely would not have said a tech company leading partner programs and building a vibrant community for IBM z Systems and Linux one, I have zero tech background, as far as like from an education perspective.

Chip Rodgers  02:53

Your degree is like international economics, I think.

Meredith Stowell  02:59

Finance and Economics with a minor in International Business diplomacy. Who would have thought, but when I look back and I was thinking about this question. And as I followed, my passion, my interest through my career, it started out as a budget analyst, and then an internal auditor, and then sales operations. 

And it truly was net sales operations and as an analyst, that I started to really fall in love with tech. And I fell in love with how technology can enable you to provide more value in your job. For example, how analytics technology can enable an analyst to truly provide database recommendations, actionable insights, versus focusing on how I pull this data, how do I get all this data together and then begin to analyze it. Technology truly helps you to do that, that analytics. That's how I then got into consulting with Cognos, which led me to IBM. 

And what I recognize is that I really love facilitating and creating collaborative relationships that then can create that true win-win scenario, where you get that one plus one equals 3,4,5. So I look back and I want to know that, I am actually using that minor in an international business diplomacy.

Chip Rodgers  04:31

I must say for sure.

Meredith Stowell  04:34

It's being used to build these business partnerships that then create so much more than what we would ever be as individual entities.

Chip Rodgers  04:46

I love that because certainly IBM is a global organization and company and I'm sure a lot of your partners and ISVs and developers are literally around the world.

Meredith Stowell  05:04

Yes absolutely. They definitely are. In fact, that's one of the things I love about working with IBM International Business Machines. It’s truly bringing together the international community, and it's both down at a regional level, but also at a global level, because that's one thing when you're looking at partnerships when you're working with whether it's the ISVs, who are creating these applications, whether it's working with the size, because that's another community that I work with is the global system integrators. 

It's not just about what are the partners that are building applications and building technologies on top of the platform, but then, how are we deploying those? And how are we getting our clients to implement those in the most modern way possible? And that's where we get into our SI, global system integrator partnerships, as well. But every geo is unique. And so it's a mix of how you can bring a global program or global capabilities, but then localize those capabilities. Which then brings even more ecosystems. So it's not just your global ecosystems, but then also bringing in some local ecosystem as well, to address that.

The role of the ecosystem in the virtual enterprise

Chip Rodgers  06:21

So many directions to go. First of all, you I, as we were getting ready, I know, you just came back from London. So again, certainly, now we're traveling again, which is kind of nice, but, reaching out to global communities. And I'd love to hear more that tells me a little bit more about this because I know IBM has this ecosystem of ecosystems approach. So maybe you could talk about what that means to IBM and your role?

Meredith Stowell  06:55

I would say that it was interesting. There was a recent study that was done with IBM. That's another component of it, as we do a lot of research, we try to get a better understanding of what's going on from an outside perspective. And there was a recent study that was done on the virtual enterprise, especially coming out of the pandemic how're power companies transforming themselves to be these virtual enterprises. And one of the key components of that was, that ecosystem was so important in creating that virtual enterprise, open platforms and ecosystems, they offer those new avenues for growth, for efficiency, for innovations. 

And they also found that partnerships are focusing on fewer deeper ecosystem combinations to really build that growth agenda. So it's not  going, yes, you'll have a very broad ecosystem. It's also how deep those different relationships go to ensure that you're both meeting, you're meeting all of those growth opportunities and capabilities. And it's really grounded, and openness in technologies like hybrid cloud and that flexibility to accelerate these new business models. 

So if you look at the openness of the ecosystem that enables you to increase the reach of value creation, all of this potential, while ensuring that every entity that's a part of this is truly maximizing the business outcomes within that industry context. So you can see industries and cross industry platforms and ecosystems that are now providing solutions and standards that an individual organization on their own, never could have. So it's truly that the ecosystem is at the heart of enhancing innovation, making new markets, creating new markets, and really enhancing capabilities. And that's where from an IBM perspective, this ecosystem of ecosystem, it's not just about our own ecosystem, but how can we leverage that ecosystem of that partner in the ecosystem, that partner really drives innovation, and truly leverage it as an engine for growth? 

As I mentioned, you can't when you're looking at a global market, you can't do all that on your own. No company can truly do that on its own. And with the disruption with this speed of change and digital transformation, you've got to move fast, and you have to innovate fast to stay differentiated. And that's where these partnerships come in. And I would also include in that it's not just about the vendor relationships, not the vendor ecosystem. It's also ensuring that you're leveraging your clients as a part. Have that overall ecosystem.

Chip Rodgers  10:02

That's really interesting. So your partners, their partners, but also your customers and their partners as well. That's right. That's a lot to coordinate

Meredith Stowell  10:15

It is. And, you know, I was kind of amazed. I was having a great conversation with a CIO recently at a financial services institution. And they were talking about when you bring these ecos, we bring these partners and these vendors together. And maybe you have one that focuses on one area of the application, maybe there's somebody else that's focusing on the infrastructure, maybe there's somebody else that's focusing on the network, maybe there's somebody else's focusing on the services when you have a problem? 

Because you're gonna have a problem, something's gonna pop up. And everyone has to be focused on working together, to be able to solve that as quickly as possible for that client, with the client first attitude. And that, to me, is what real partnership is all about? It's not about going out and selling together. Which we can, get into a little bit around. How do we cosell but it's not enough to get the win? The win doesn't matter if you can't get it implemented. And if you can't then partner together with that ecosystem to really deliver and continue to deliver the success that needs. It is imperative that you're working together surrounding that client as that ecosystem of ecosystems.

Chip Rodgers  11:45

What you said earlier, it's so true that no, no one company can do it all, you really need to build these ecosystems of trust relationships, and be able to work together and build that experience to deliver to co-sell, but then also deliver and make sure that everything's up and running. At z Systems, you guys are running some critical banking, and insurance and airlines systems, massive mission critical systems.

Meredith Stowell  12:24

You got it. I mean, for decades, when you think about IBM z Systems, it's all about reliability, scalability, security, ensuring that these mission critical applications don't go down because we're talking about credit card transactions, we're talking about banking or ATM, the global economy is running on these systems. And so ensuring that they're always up is incredibly important. So I would say, for decades, key industries have really turned to IBM z systems to manage transactions and store customer data. And we partner with some of the largest banking, insurance, public sector, health care institutions. So, in fact, it includes about two thirds of the Fortune 100 on a system. 

And here's an interesting one, an estimated 70% of global transaction value runs on IBM z Systems. And it's tremendous. And we continue to see growth. We've just seen, within the past decade, we've seen over three times growth in our installed capacity on this platform. And in fact, we just announced the world's smallest mainframe really brings all of that scale that we're used to seeing. And it's all in the smallest footprint, in fact, so these we have rackmount systems and single frame system configurations. 

They're really designed to save energy, save space, because sustainability is such a high priority right now with a lot of businesses. Are Linux, one Rockhopper? We have different configurations. And we have seen this deliver a savings of 75% and can reduce data center space needed by 67%. So that's where this not only creates, not only are we addressing the kind of sustainability challenges that are out there right now, but we're also leveraging this to create even more business opportunities for our partners, and how can you reach new and expanded audiences with this new technology? 

But as you had mentioned, I was in London earlier. And we had an event this this week all around sustainability, because it is and has been been identified by  CEOs as the top priority over the next in the top challenge over the next few years, we're going to meet the sustainability goals, the regulations, there's over 2500 regulations out there right now around sustainability. 

So how are they going to meet those and definitely IT is at the heart of that. And leveraging the most that you can out of your systems and of your infrastructure to help drive that is really going to make a difference. And also at that event, this is where I think it's so important. From an ecosystem perspective, it's really about working together to showcase how it's not just about IBM, bringing sustainability and helping to bring these innovations to market. They don't matter if you don't have applications running on them if you don't have that ecosystem surrounding them. 

And so it's always great when you go into these events, and you have all of your ecosystem with you. So we actually had a number of our partners there with us on stage and through our panel discussions, really talking about how we work together to help drive that solution to our clients.

Leveraging IBM’s ecosystem

Chip Rodgers  16:13

That's awesome. So, software partners, system integrator partners, as well. 

Meredith Stowell  16:23

It could be managed services partner services.. So let's say for example, in this event that we had, we had fvp Postgres, we had clarified who actually delivers on fraud and analytics, because we do have a specialized chip within our z 16. And within our current Linux, one that actually accelerates AI inferencing, it's the first of its kind, to truly enable scoring 100% scoring on all transactions. 

So for example, with fraud or any other types of scoring that needs to be done. So a lot of the analytics ecosystem is really looking at this platform, and how can they leverage it, because a lot of the data gravity, if you will, is also on a system, so that you can combine that AI at the time of transaction in real time, but within milliseconds.

Chip Rodgers  17:23

That's tremendous. So when you are working with partners, on stage when you're talking about critical issues like sustainability, but in the field, when you and your sales leaders and sales teams are working together with partners. Talk a little bit about that process of, planning on looking forward, then doing account planning, and how does that all work with you and your partners?

Meredith Stowell  18:05

Yeah, it's very important to be intentional, when working with your partners and working with the ecosystem. Since we have a platform, a lot of our partnerships are from an ISV perspective, or from an open source, community perspective, integration motion. So it's how they integrate their applications and certify their applications to run on our platform, optimize their applications for those platforms. 

So then, but the most important thing is, it's not about just getting them on the platform and saying, okay, they're now supporting. The secret is if you've got to have that go to market and the routes to market coordination between the two of you from a co-sell perspective. 

So in order to do that, and ensure that you're not getting potential channel conflict out there once you get you don't want to show up at the client all of a sudden, for the first time they are together, it's best to leverage there are going to be opportunities that a partner is going to bring, there's going to be opportunities that we IBM bring, but then how do we coordinate that to truly go in as a single offering or a single opportunity or single solution to our clients? And the only way that you're going to do that is through intentional account planning and ensuring that that takes a lot of trust. 

Because it's going to be you who will show me your opportunities. So you're not going to take baby steps to build that trust and there are going to be obvious opportunities that you both see I write in the market and then saying, Okay, how are we going to go to this? How are we going to go to this client together? And working through that, and then they're going to be the other thing is transparency. 

In fact, I just had this conversation with one of our partners about being very clear, hey, you know what? And this one line here, we're gonna go together. But with this type of opportunity, we're not going to go together. It's okay to have that competition. If you will, right, it's here, we're not going to go together. But here, this is fantastic. It's going to be a win-win for everyone. 

So having that open communication, starting small, don't try to boil the ocean. And maybe even to the point of, we actually do it on a geo by geo basis. So really working for each geography, it could be that within one geography we focus on these partners in these capabilities in these opportunities. Whereas in another market, it's going to be something different, because of the way that market is and the dynamics within that market. And where they are from a maturity level, of what they're doing from a business perspective. 

So it's important to ensure that you've got a broad partner base, as I mentioned, kind of that is diverse, that sustainable, that vibrant ecosystem, but to provide flexibility and choice to your clients, also, then define how are we going to go to market with this? What is the business value? Because that's the other piece.

What is the you have to have a differentiated business value, it's not just hey, once again, this application runs on this. So okay, please buy us now, you've got to have a differentiated value proposition. And developing that upfront, is very important, so that you're going with a very clear value to your client, and then you're able to deliver on that value, because that's the other piece that I you know, with the account planning is, yes, you're going to plan and then, but it doesn't end, when you win, it's got to go beyond that to the implementation, ensuring overall success for that client, and that's gonna create your marquee account, that's going to create your references, and you're gonna go and be able to do that more and more replicated.

How to develop a differentiated value proposition


Chip Rodgers  22:30

And then not even just to the market, but to your own sales, your sales team, that your partner sales team, get them excited about it.

Meredith Stowell  22:43

And so that brings in an even another angle of this right is because we are very partner friendly, if you will, we do really leverage our ecosystem for growth. You got the size, you could have an ISV that you're working with, we've got the infrastructure component. But then from a sale, you also have your resellers in your sell and your channel partners. 

So being able to pull them into the mix, as well. And as a part of that account planning and ensuring that you have a true sales channel that you can go through, it may be direct, or it may not. Once again, it's going to depend on the market, it's going to depend on the clients that you're going after. It's gonna depend on a lot of different things. But you have to have that flexibility. And once again, be intentional about planning, because it's not just going to organically happen.

Chip Rodgers  23:49

Do you have an example of a partnership where you gone through that process and made it tangible? I don't know if you can mention names or not. 

Meredith Stowell  24:02

I'll call one. I'm gonna call out Amrit, because we have an upcoming Temenos that is going to be having one of their large conferences coming up. And Amrit is actually going to be on stage with me talking about their success with Temenos on Linux one. And but it's talking about it in front of all the different clients and all of the different individuals that will be there at the conference. 

Another thing once again, it's about that joint marketing, and going out there and showing, hey, we've got a joint solution, and we've had success. So yeah, that's an example of one and then it's once again, like I said, it's not just about the fact that we got the win. We were able to work together to get it successfully implemented. 

We were able to get a happy customer who's now willing to come on stage and talk about their journey and really working with both of us but that was a co-sell, a co-sell motion that led to Amrit Implementing Temenos on top of Linux one.

How do you optimize performance testing?

Chip Rodgers  25:10

Wow, that's awesome. What was the process of and what was the timing of that whole thing?

Meredith Stowell  25:19

And I'll say this because we work. As you mentioned, z Systems and Linux one, we work within mission critical applications. So it's core banking. And when you're looking at implementing a core banking application, or shifting to a different core banking application, raising our existing or creating a new, creating a new digital bank, it's going to be a longer cycle. 

And that's why you have to be so close with one another.  And be willing to stay there and work through this process, because it's going to take anywhere from a year to two years to go through the sales cycle, and then go through the implementation. 

Chip Rodgers  26:10

I'm sure. Just think of the change management and all the security requirements. And, it has to be that you can't make a mistake when you're rolling it.

Meredith Stowell  26:23

You have to ensure that you're doing it all along the way. Because when we look at we have what we call our IBM z and Linux one partner network, it's a digital path. It enables partners who are ISVs that are interested in certifying on the platform to come on all digitally, they'll get a success coach assigned to them kind of behind the scenes, they go in, they get system access, they get learning to start, then to actually go in court, their court their applications to them certify the application. And then once it's certified, you then work together on our first win. 

And once you get into them, they're large applications that we're doing, such as the core banking, and also need to do benchmarking, performance testing. And so you have to do that on top of it's not just about the certification, but then how do you optimize and ensure that application is running at optimal levels and throughput? 

Because once again, we're talking about core banking, or we're talking about mission critical, we're usually talking about millions of transactions coming in with very tight SLAs that we only only have milliseconds to get that transaction through you think about it  when you swipe your credit card or you tap your credit card, I'm a tapper. When I go into wherever I'm purchasing something, and I tap that credit card from a payments perspective, I'm not going to sit around and wait for that to come back. It's good, it's gonna get that little approved thing really fast. Because if it doesn't, I'm gonna say cancel, and I'm gonna pull out a different card which means that business was just lost on this card. That's the amount of time that you have where that goes back all through the system and comes back and validates it. 

Oh, by the way, it also does. Does fraud calculations within that AI, and scores all of that to then come back and say, you're good to go. You can purchase this. So that's the timing that we're because it's hard to when we talked about milliseconds.

Advice on how to build a community

Chip Rodgers  28:52

So how is it? How does the community factor into all of this? Because you've had such a rich background and working with communities of ISVs and developers and how does that all fit into the strategy?

Meredith Stowell  29:11

I would say that the community is absolutely essential. It is essential, not only for, for the practitioners, and for the developers, but also just to showcase that you've got this sustainable community, that vibrant community, things are changing so fast. Constantly there's new technology that's coming out with new capabilities. 

And if you don't have a community that you can go to that way, you can get the message out as quickly as possible to that community, but more importantly, give them an opportunity to give back to the rest of the community, give them the opportunity to network with each other and learn from each other, give them the opportunity to teach you something new. 

Right outside to get there. There we call it Client sponsoring, where client, we need those sponsors before we do any development, it's at the heart of how we develop our hardware and how we develop our software is really getting that feedback from our clients, because we don't want to build it and hope that they come but we know that this is something that they're looking for. 

Chip Rodgers  30:38

It's valuable to them, and then they're sort of bought into it as well.

Meredith Stowell  30:43

And then it's just gonna naturally grow. Because when IBM says something, it's one thing, but when somebody else says something, product or about you is it from an experience perspective, it's completely different. And that's the flywheel. Because you're not gonna get the flywheel without your community.

Chip Rodgers  31:02

That's awesome. Meredith, this has been fantastic. I appreciate you sharing so many insights. Maybe just one more question before we close, any advice that you would have, throughout your career, starting in international economics, into communities and open source and sustainability and all those things, working with partners and working with an ecosystem building an ecosystem? Any words of wisdom that you've shared a lot already that comes to mind?

Meredith Stowell  31:41

I would say what I think is one of the key things in building partnerships is understanding where everybody's coming from. And how do you get to a yes. Because when you first come and you start talking with a partner, you may think this is how it's going to turn out. And they may be thinking, this is how this is going to turn out. 

And if you're open to getting to the yes, it may not necessarily be what you originally thought the answer was going to be. And it may not necessarily be the yes, that the partner thought it was going to be. But it's probably something that's even better than either one of you imagined. So really, how do you get to the Yes, be willing to get to that yes. And have an open mind to create that one plus one plus one equals five, and work together because there is a way to get to the Yes.

Chip Rodgers  32:40

I love that. And it comes back to your conversation just a minute ago about communities that you know, you and this whole conversation.  No one company knows everything. You may have a perspective about what you think is right, yes. But then you bring in other points of view. And it's like, oh, well, that's interesting. We didn't think of that. Let's adjust this a little bit. And it's better.

Meredith Stowell  33:09

And it's better, it's even better. And you realize you're like, wow, I would have never even thought of that. If I hadn't been open minded, if I hadn't gone in with positive intent from my part, and knowing that the others were coming in with the positive intent as well, to get to that joint- Yes.

Chip Rodgers  33:29

That's awesome. Meredith, thank you so much. This has been fantastic, what a great session and I really appreciate all of your experience and guidance and ideas and some of it's tremendous, the work that you and your team are doing at IBM and bringing ecosystem partners together for the benefit of your customers. Thank you, Meredith. And with that, I think, you know, we'll sign off and thanks, everyone for joining another episode of ecosystem aces, Chip Rodgers, and for Meredith Stowell. Thanks for joining and we'll see you next time. Thanks, everybody.

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