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IBM Escalates ISV-Centric Approach

With its PartnerWorld 2005 conference as a backdrop, IBM officials announced the expansion of its ISV support program Monday.

The Armonk, N.Y., company's PartnerWorld program matches software from independent developers to prospective customers. Monday's announcement is a continuation of IBM's decision to move away from developing software applications; instead, Big Blue focuses on its middleware platform to link disparate applications in an enterprise network, like the WebSphere Application Server or Portal.

While other major IT vendors have focused on delivering industry-specific enhancements to its software, such as SAP's announcement to acquire Retek Monday, IBM went in another direction and overhauled its software division in late 2003 to embrace the ISV community.

Monday's announcement adds to the number of IBM sales representatives dedicated to selling ISV partner software to customers by another 1,000. The company in the past has earmarked part of its sales force from around the globe to help ISVs sell their software, with an increasing emphasis on promoting ISV applications.

"If they want to get paid what they want to get paid, they're going to have to have success in selling with partners," said Scott Hebner, IBM vice president of strategy and marketing for ISV and developer relations. "So what it is is a shift in how we are essentially [giving incentives to] sales people to sell, and that is to sell with the ISV partners."

Officials also said they are opening up four new industry-specific partner networks to bring the total number to 13: education and learning; fabrication and assembly; media and entertainment; and wholesale distribution. Last March, IBM started with automotive, banking, education, financial markets, retail, telecommunications, and health care and life sciences. Several months later, officials added the public sector and insurance industries to their industry network coverage.

Hebner said the new resources are an extension of the $1 billion initiative started by the company at last year's PartnerWorld conference, and as such makes it hard to put a dollar amount on this latest endeavor.

"The reason why it's somewhat difficult to quantify, it sort of gets to the point of trying to count clouds -- it's all sort of merging," he said. "Every day that goes by, more and more of the core capabilities at IBM in terms of how we market and sell is inherently including partners, in particular ISVs."

Another initiative launched Monday is a business partner application showcase, a directory that allows business customers to find ISV applications that cater to specific industry functionality. When they click on the "contact" button next to the ISV, IBM sends a form to the ISV in question so they can reach that company. The directory is available in nine languages.

In conjunction with the application showcase, a final addition to the PartnerWorld program additions announced Monday is the launch of new resources to help ISVs market and sell their software outside their country.

"We've heard over the year, as we work closely with these ISV partners, that they are interested in internationalizing their access to new markets," Hebner said. "We're deploying a whole new set of resources that help them advertise, do 'demand generation' and connect to sales resources and other business partners that are in a different geographic region of the world to help them break into those new markets."

In other PartnerWorld conference news, IBM announced its Business Partner Compliance Initiative, a pilot program that lets systems integrators, business partners and ISVs create a framework to plan, build and run data retention and compliance applications. The centers will let them simulate real-world scenarios and test applications for clients, as well as provide technical and educational support and sales support.

IBM also announced the Built On IBM Express Portfolio initiative for small- to medium-sized businesses. The program gives systems integrators, ISVs and business partners development, sales and marketing tools if their software or services include IBM Express Portfolio offerings.