New IBM Templates Tutor More SMBs

The company, which says it acquired 10,000 new SMB customers in the first half of 2004, adds five new templates designed to help partners figure out how to configure their software and services to fit with its middleware.

Building on its $500 million investment in Small and Medium Business Advantage (SMBA), which provides support for its SMB software partners, IBM on Tuesday announced a handful of new enablement templates and some midyear metrics that prove the concept is cooking right along, according to officials.

The five new Solution Builder Express Portfolio templates, or Solution Starting Points, are designed to help partners figure out how to configure their software and services to fit with IBMs WebSphere middleware offerings, geared for small and midmarket companies. Each Starting Point provides information on design, deployment, technical architecture, installation and integration, as well as hardware and software specifications.

IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., is adding to its current stable of 12 Starting Points with the latest templates: collaborative document management in banking; item management and synchronization for UCCnet; retail e-commerce Web site; collaborative community and employee portals for IBM eServer iSeries; cross-industry B2B e-commerce; and B2B e-commerce analytics.

IBM announced its SMBA program last January as sort of a one-stop technical support and networking arena for IBMs SMB software partners.

IBM officials said the company has seen some "fabulous results" with the SMBA program and the Express offerings.

"Eighteen months ago, we made the decision to develop and create a set of our portfolio that is very specifically aimed at the 100 to 1,000 [employee] customer space based on complexity of implementation," said Kevin Hooper, director of SMB sales and business development in the IBM Software group.

"After all this hard work, we looked back to compare growth from this year to last year. ... Our new customer acquisition is really making me feel like these 70- and 80-hour work weeks have not been in vain."

IBM said it acquired 10,000 new SMB customers in the first half of 2004—twice as many as it did in the same time frame last year, and more SMB customers than it garnered for the entire year. Of those new SMB customers, 25 percent are Express middleware customers, officials said.

"The reason thats important to me as a sales executive thats part of this [effort] is I was part of this team that [was] basically changing the job of every one of our salespeople, going to market in an industry-aligned manner," Hooper said. "You can imagine how scary that is."

Kevin Jinx, senior vice president of sales and recruiting at IT consultancy Dynax Solutions Inc., said his business has definitely been affected by IBMs industry-oriented focus on the SMB sector.

"Before IBM decided to graft to SMB, there was a fairly limited set [of companies] Dynax could go to and sell software. There are only so many companies that have million-dollar IT budgets," Jinx said in Manhattan. "So, [IBMs focus on] SMB had a major effect on Dynax. Now, we can go after business that we just couldnt in the past."

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The Express templates have also helped Jinx better sell Dynaxs services, he said.

"Any time you get a template-driven product, the end result is a faster implementation, and thats what customers want to hear," Jinx said. "Thats a good story to tell customers, that I can take implementation down from 20 weeks to 10 weeks—theyre definitely interested."

As a hardware, software and services partner with IBM since the mid-1980s, Dynax has changed its go-to-market strategy in response to IBMs vertical approach.

"They made it real clear at their partner conference last year that customers dont want to buy little pieces [of software]," Jinx said. "The message is, Go out there and find an industry solution and sell, so thats what were doing—the whole target market and strategy." Dynax is focusing on building out a portal offering based on IBMs hardware and middleware.

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