IBM Takes Aim at B2Bs Big 6

Company to appoint executives to oversee relationships with key e-biz leaders, such as Ariba, SAP

IBM is honing its business-to-business pitch by focusing its energies on six key partners. Beginning this week, the company will appoint a set of executives to work more closely with B2B and enterprise software leaders Ariba Inc., i2 Technologies Inc., SAP AG, PeopleSoft Inc., Siebel Systems Inc. and J.D. Edwards & Co., officials from IBM said.

The goal of the executive shuffle is to spur joint development of products and services that incorporate IBMs strengths and the core B2B software of each of the partners.

For instance, Jay Ennesser, who is currently IBMs vice president of B2B global business, will take the lead of IBMs i2 group this week. He will focus on ways to bundle IBM software and services with i2s collaborative and engineering applications and expects to oversee new joint offerings from IBM and i2 in the area of supplier relationship management, collaborative design and engineering.

The charter for each of the six IBM executives is to make sure the sometimes-disparate B2B initiatives within IBM come together and work better as a solid unit.

Not all of the efforts are aimed at new products or services, however. Phil Pierangeli, who will have the top spot responsible for Ariba, expects that IBM will penetrate new geographic areas where its partners have a foothold.

The six vice presidents will report to Gary Bullard, currently general manager of global solutions at IBM.

IT managers who have seen IBM work with its partners in the past said they would welcome any move by IBM to expand its software development efforts with its partners.

"IBM [is] not that deep with the Ariba development cycle," said Bill Murphy, chief technology officer at Omnexus Corp., an Atlanta-based plastics consortium that uses Aribas e-marketplace software and IBMs systems integration services. "There are teams that are, and if IBM were to move in that direction, it would be to their benefit."

IBM has long had teams under its Software Development Group appointed to these specific vendors, as well as a host of others. But those groups are typically split among multiple organizations, some IBM insiders said.

The move comes after a turbulent two-year period in which IBM tried to grab a piece of the booming B2B market. Early last year, the Armonk, N.Y., company came on strong with an alliance with i2 and Ariba to gain more market share in the e-business space. But that alliance has fractured, and IBM is again looking to partners to help it gain entry into B2B sales opportunities.

"We did the alliance to kick Oracle [Corp.] hard and not allow them to gobble up the world," Ennesser said. "We think we accomplished that. Now were stepping back into the strategy that we are all getting [back to basics] vs. the glitz and glitter that has all been part of the past."