A One-Ring Circus

IBM combines traditional integrators and Web integrators under a single big top.

IBMs partnering tent just got a bit bigger.

The company this week at PartnerWorld is unveiling a Consultants and Integrators program, which brings together high-end consultants, systems integrators, Web integrators, and emerging service types such as wireless integrators. The company had previously dealt with traditional integrators and Web integrators in separate organizations.

"We are choosing to combine and create a unified team that we think will more effectively target and support a wide range of e-business consulting partners," says Anne Smith, VP of systems integrators and Web integrators at IBM. The unified program will house around 850 Web integrators, and 130 consultants and integrators.

The move mirrors the converging of Web- and systems-integration business models, in which the e-business upstarts are beginning to adopt some of the characteristics of old-line integrators.

But IBMs program consolidation also is intended to further the companys 2001 partnering strategy, which involves facilitating alliances among its numerous business partners. A program covering multiple kinds of consultants and integrators makes that task easier.

Among IBMs matchmaking resources is Business Partner Connections, an online database that helps the companys 95,000 partners find each other, says Patricia Meacham, IBMs VP of PartnerWorld. Using the database, partners "can identify other partners they might want to go to market with," she says. IBM will demonstrate the tool at PartnerWorld.

In addition, IBMs sales team now includes dedicated partner managers who operate at the local engagement level. The managers will drive leads to partners and help them connect with each other, says IBMs Smith, noting that the partner managers will be located in 300 sales territories worldwide.

Tim Appnel, director of technology at Agency.com, welcomes IBMs partner-matching efforts. He says having IBM as a resource to scout the alliance landscape is particularly important in the Internet arena. "There are just so many companies and offerings," he says.

Appnel notes that the predecessor Web integrator program made it easier to "get to the right people" at IBM. The additional resources potentially could make the partnering process that much smoother.

To be sure, the partner landscape offers all sorts of potential alliances between integrators, solutions providers and service providers.