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Struggling To Navigate IBM PartnerWorld? Turn to Watson

When it comes to partnering with a tech giant like IBM, the options and programs can be overwhelming.

Which is why it makes sense that when IBM is trying to nudge its partners into the "cognitive era," the company would turn to Watson, its question-answering computer system.

The company on Tuesday announced a new Watson-based support tool, which is voice- and text-activated, on the portal for PartnerWorld, the IBM partner program. The announcement came as part of the 2017 PartnerWorld Leadership Conference in Las Vegas.

"To help Business Partners quickly find information related to the PartnerWorld program structure, Competencies, program levels, incentives contracts and more, the company has developed IBM PartnerWorld Advisor," IBM said in a statement. "Building PartnerWorld support with Watson technology is another example of IBM's focus on simplification and is geared toward providing Business Partners with all the resources they need to do business with IBM."

There's a lot for Watson to help partners with, even those who have been working with IBM for a long time. IBM launched a redesigned, competency-based PartnerWorld on Jan. 1. Many partners have already hit the new tiers -- 5,000 are Silver, 2,500 are Gold and 75 are Platinum -- but many more are trying to find their way back into IBM's new partner structure. It's complex with 40 competencies at the start and more on the way in Q2.

"We've expanded and redesigned the PartnerWorld program to guide Business Partners of all types and models in developing capabilities aligned to our cognitive solutions and cloud platform strategy to deliver high client value," said Marc Dupaquier, general manager for IBM Global Business Partners, in a statement.

Partners will see changes at the top and bottom of the program -- from deep enterprise and ISV engagement to SMB volume. IBM this week announced new programs and initiatives to engage more deeply with ISVs developing for the IBM Bluemix cloud platform, as well as enhanced software incentives coming in April for partners conducting high-value activity, such as autonomous selling or bringing business in the commercial segment. In April, an IBM Express Start offering is supposed to provide a faster onboarding process for new partners to resell entry-level products. In the hybrid cloud arena, IBM and VMware are also expanding their partnership to allow IBM partners to more easily sell VMware Cloud Foundation and other VMware cloud services within IBM solutions.

It's a lot of change at a lot of levels that a well-implemented Watson-based tool could help new and longtime partners navigate. The question that only repeated partner trials can answer is whether IBM's PartnerWorld Advisor is guru or gimmick.

Posted by Scott Bekker on February 14, 2017