IBM is probably undergoing the most significant change to its business since Lou Gerstner joined as CEO back in April 1993. Mr Gerstner is often quoted as “the man who saved IBM”. Changing the organisation; focussing back on customers and growing partnerships was key to revitalising the company then. They were exciting times, although the excitement varied depending on where you were within the IBM ecosystem at the time!
In an interview with McKinsey in 2014, many years after leaving IBM, Mr Gerstner was asked about why some companies continued to be successful over many years, whilst others had shorter life spans. He explained that some gained longevity through being in a highly regulated or “protected” industry such as Banking and those with high capital start-up costs like Food Manufacturing and Automotive. Challenges from new start-ups here were difficult, although Tesla has recently changed people’s perspective on this.
In other sectors, such as Technology he suggested there are new challengers every year. It is during this interview he explains that “longevity is the ability to change”. It required leadership that didn’t cling to out of date businesses because they used to work but recognised that incremental and continuous change was necessary. He thought that few businesses surviving for 100 years were the same business; they may have changed up to 25 times during that period whilst keeping the same name.
IBM’s 2021 strategy – much is changing
So, it seemed that history may be repeating itself listening to David La Rose this week, discussing IBM’s 2021 priorities in front of a global partner audience.
It is obvious that IBM is committed to making significant change this year. Having completed the Red Hat acquisition, said goodbye to Ginni Rometty and announced the spin-off of their infrastructure managed services business, building a wider Ecosystem as a route to market for their technology is now central to their strategy. The tag line “Customer success plus partner success equals IBM success” has been used a few times.
David, the worldwide leader for IBM Ecosystem Business, informed partners that IBM will be getting closer to them within their territory. Both supporting them in the sales process and increasing their access to technology support services. In this new model, David told us that partners would see an opening up of opportunity for partners, both within existing and new clients. Investments made in partner programmes in 2020, such as the Cloud Engagement fund will continue into 2021, with an increased promotion of partner solutions on the IBM Digital Marketplace.
The intention is that the partner coverage model will be simplified with a single point of contact for partners, as greater integration takes place across the different IBM businesses. David reminded his audience that new CEO Arvind Krishna, who took on the role in April last year, had stressed that growing the IBM Ecosystem was one of his key pillars to success in changing the culture of IBM. If Arvind can achieve the same turnaround in fortunes that Mr Gerstner presided over during the 90s, then those of us in the IBM ecosystem could once again be in for some exciting times.
To provide an opportunity for partners to hear more about both the 2021 market opportunity and the new IBM go to market model, we are running an Ecosystem Webinar on Thursday February 4th. Speakers include Chirag Gir from IBM Business Intelligence and Andrew Gill, Director of IBM Business Partners UKI. We hope you can join us.