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IBM reorg aims Big Blue at SMB customers

IBM has launched another reorg aimed at boosting sales of its hardware into SMB accounts.

In the name of simplicity and “ease of use” IBM is building a single partner-facing sales force to rep all of its Systems and Technology hardware brands, its Global business partner org and its Global technology Services Group.

This is all well and good. Partners have long (privately) complained about the difficulties of navigating the various teams and fiefdom’s at Big Blue and this could take a chunk out of that issue. IBM’s Systems and Technology broad hardware portfolio, its Global Technology Services Group and its Global Business Partners personnel will now be funneled into a single team into a single team that will present what IBM calls one unified face to business partners.

In that way, Joe Schmoe VAR theoretically wouldn’t have to deal with one rep for AS/400 (oops iSeries) another for Intel-based servers, and yet another for storage systems. That’s all well and good, especially if the designated team member actually KNOWS all those product lines.

But, knowing how complicated IBM remains; there’s skepticism that this partner interaction can ever get easy. Also, big gap here: The company’s Software Group is not included in the simplification plan, and some partners say it very much should be. Several say the Software group’s “Express” efforts – essentially a repackaging of Big Boy products like WebSphere Portals or DB2 for small and medium businesses — haven’t met expectations.

One major problem is vendor-mandated segmentation of enterprise partners is vs. SMB partners. IBM, like Microsoft, like Oracle, refuses to believe that even smallish VARs can have very big accounts. Instead they persist in pushing enterprise business to their hand-picked enterprise global integrators or worse yet, to their own services group.

Another issue: If you’re a partner, would you rather sell an “Express” product for a couple thousand dollars or a $30,000 enterprise product. You see my point

In its recent earnings call, IBM said software and services led growth in its overall 12 percent gain in net income. Hardware sale/income was relatively flat after currency adjustments.

With a resurging Hewlett Packard gaining ground in hardware and now bolstering its data center services by buying OpSource, IBM’s got some worrying to do both on the enterprise and SMB front.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston-area journalist, can be reached at

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