February 23, 2009, 12:42 PM — IBM has a new plan, and nobody seems to like it very much. Last week, IBM told its solution providers that the company is moving to a "controlled distribution" plan, which carries with it new certification requirements. The new "Growth through Skills" system applies to all of IBM's software lines. In the past, reselling IBM was a fairly open proposition that required registration as a partner, but not much more.
To be fair to IBM, plenty of vendors have "certified reseller" programs for which VARs must qualify. It provides a level of assurance that the reseller has a good understanding of the product and the technology being sold, and these programs are ultimately good marketing tools for the VARs themselves. Customers are just more likely to buy from somebody that has a certification, because it provides the perception of expertise.
But the suddenness of the switchover has gotten a lot of VARs upset, and what's worse, if you don't get with the program, you'll even lose your renewals for your existing IBM customers. Partners have to achieve two technical certifications and a sales certification for each different product line, and will have to meet specified revenue targets. The revenue targets is going to eliminate a lot of VARs that offer IBM but aren't specifically focused on IBM, and may well cause some of the smaller VARs to quit IBM altogether. If you only have two or three employees, and you have to meet the requirement to have two technical empoyees certified, is it worth the expense? But then again, big vendors like IBM don't tend to think about the very small operations that want to have a seat at the table.
I expet this type of bureaucratic, nonsensical requirement when dealing with government agencies, where the procedure is something like: Fill out a form, send us a fee, wait six months and then fill out a second form with the same information you provided on the first form, send us another fee, wait another six months and then realize that you don't qualify...you get the idea. But IBM? Maybe they're so big they think they're a government agency and can impose these sort of restrictions. I think they have the mistaken idea that everybody wants to sell IBM, but the old saw, "You can't get fired for buying IBM" just doesn't hold water any more. IBM just doesn't get it any more, and they need to re-work this program to be a little more channel-friendly.