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IBM partner ecosystem integral to the company’s successful transformation
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IBM partner ecosystem integral to the company’s successful transformation

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Zaidoun Arbad, Vice President, Partner Ecosystem, IBM Middle East and Africa, talks about the crucial role of its partner ecosystem in the company’s success.

Can you briefly share your perspective on how organizations across MEA have embraced digital transformation, and the role of IBM and its partner ecosystem in enabling the journey to cloud in particular?
In the last few years, businesses around the world have given strong focus to driving digital transformation to take full advantage of data and enhance efficiencies. Every enterprise client I speak to has digital transformation on the top of their minds. The pandemic proved to be a turning point for many companies, as the disruption and uncertainty caused by the crisis accelerated digital transformation initiatives that were already underway. Governments and businesses were under immense pressure to innovate and digitally transform as the pandemic highlighted the critical role that technology plays to enable enterprises’ speed, flexibility and agility. I believe the client needs of today cannot be fulfilled by one vendor alone. Therefore, the role of partnership has become one of the most powerful forces in technology and a growth engine for businesses. IBM has enabled a powerful partner ecosystem of our own – the IBM Ecosystem.

How crucial is the partner ecosystem to IBM in this region, and what is IBM doing to enable more opportunities for its partners to deliver shared value to customers?
In a diverse and continuously developing region like the Middle East and Africa, an ecosystem is paramount to helping customers succeed in their digital journey. IBM wants its partners to be the best in the industry at establishing a hybrid cloud architecture and an AI footprint for clients. We want to be essential to our partners, and that includes delivering a consistent partner experience for companies of all types and with differing needs to help them win with their clients.

Accordingly, we have been providing market-leading support and skilling for our partners to win with clients. We are investing in demand generation programs to help build more demand for partners. We have also been streamlining and simplifying the way partners access IBM solutions, resources, and expertise to help them go to market faster and grow their businesses.

The IBM Ecosystem plays a crucial role in helping us strategize and capture the market opportunity with Red Hat Open Shift at the center, complemented with our technology (infrastructure and software) and consulting capabilities.

What are the top three requests from the IBM Partner ecosystem today to meet the ever-growing demand of digital transformation?
To start with, I believe our partners always want to explore more efficient and simplified ways to access solutions, resources, and expertise. With this in mind, we have recently developed a new approach that represents the biggest change to our go-to-market model in 30 years. It simplifies the way we cover, work, and co-create with partners, and how partners access clients. And our partners are already seeing the benefits of that in various ways.

Secondly, driving efficiencies across the ecosystem, our new model is also making it easier than ever for partners to manage opportunities, incentives, and deals by enabling faster collaboration with simplified resources like the IBM Partner World portal.

And lastly, we strive to offer our ecosystem partners ample trainings, and access to resources such as our Partner Technical Specialists to ensure they have the necessary skills to meet the increasing demands of digital transformation.

Please elaborate on the regional actions following IBM’s announcement last year to invest $1 billion globally to empower its partner ecosystem. How is IBM investing in its partner ecosystem team in MEA to capitalize on the opportunities in the market, particularly around emerging technologies such as hybrid cloud and AI?
There are really three elements. The first one is increased technical support. The second is what I call an increased toolkit of competencies. And then the third is a very focused set of benefits and funding tools to really help partners win and land the hybrid platform with their customers a lot faster, so moving them to revenue at a faster pace.

With that in mind, we have implemented new policies that are helping our partners compete in the region’s increasingly competitive marketplace. We have also developed our partner program with Build, Service, and Sell tracks to offer new opportunities for partners to grow revenue and deliver customer value through our shared vision of hybrid cloud and AI. These include trainings to learn about market-leading hybrid cloud and AI skills, and access to resources including labs dedicated to ISVs, GSIs and other technical specialists.

To support the IBM Partner Ecosystem in the MEA region, we’ve invested in a range of services and operational bases that comprise IBM iX studios, Client Engineering, Innovation Studios, and Client Innovation Centers. By increasing market share and activating new service partners on our platform, we are working towards establishing an extensive hybrid cloud and AI service partner ecosystem in the region.

Highlight the importance of IBM’s partner ecosystem in contributing to the company’s growth. Why does IBM believe its business partner ecosystem remains central to the company’s growth strategy?
The IBM Ecosystem includes tens of thousands of partners of all types, as well as digital marketplaces, developers, and more. It is a multi-billion-dollar growth engine for our company and is integral to IBM’s transformation story. Being a large driver of business for IBM, we are confident it will help us double revenue over the next 3-5 years. Moreover, with hybrid cloud presenting a $1 trillion market opportunity for IBM, our clients, and our partners globally, the IBM Ecosystem will be essential in placing us in a unique position to capture this market opportunity.

How does IBM touch base with its partner ecosystem in this region to sustain and nurture successful collaborations?
Listening to customers and partners is embedded in our culture. At IBM, we’re excited about our newly created ecosystem executive forum, the IBM Partner Value Xchange. It is a quarterly platform to facilitate an ongoing dialog between IBM leadership and the leaders of our key partners and distributors in MEA. This is to ensure that we continue to address the opportunities and challenges we identify together in the forum.

With innovative new policies and a refreshed client-centric approach, we are creating a single, frictionless, end-to-end digital experience for our partners to make it easy to do business with us. Furthermore, we are increasing our investment in resources behind partner recruitment and offering benefits such as co-creation of client centers, proof-of-concept incentives to fuel co-innovation, and messaging acceleration workshops to help partner organizations develop custom, buyer-centric messaging plans.

According to IBM, what are the next disruptive strategies & technologies that the partner ecosystem should be prepared to address?
The trend we see is clear. Across industries, clients see technology like hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence as a major source of competitive advantage. When embedded at the heart of their business it leads to seismic shifts in the way they create value. Digitisation, Open Hybrid Cloud and AI adoption are maturing rapidly and accelerating across all industries, adding pressure to develop skills and modernize business to maintain an advantage.

Cyber security in particular is becoming the issue of the decade. An IBM Security study published late last year estimated the average cost per data breach incident in the UAE and Saudi Arabia to be at $6.93 million. As companies look for ways to increase security and reduce the risks of data breaches, Zero Trust strategies will play a predominant role in the coming years. Today, we are strongly collaborating with our ecosystem partners to implement new zero-trust strategies for greater visibility across a fragmented IT environment. This in turn helps clients to lower data breach costs and better position themselves to deal with data breaches.

 How do you visualize the growth of the company and its partner ecosystem in the MEA region over the next 18- 24 months?
IBM has been in the market for more than 111 years, and operating in more than 175 countries. Over the years, we have helped businesses and institutions across all industries drive innovation, create value, transform their business models, and most importantly, tackle some of the most unique challenges globally. The solid revenue growth seen in our last two quarter results globally illustrates the strong client demand for our technology and consulting and reinforces our confidence in our strategy and Go-To-Market model.

We have been a proud partner to many businesses across the MEA region for decades and we remain committed to continue our investments in the region. An example of this commitment is our recently announced plans to expand our Client Engineering teams for customers and business partners across four countries – Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey and UAE. Through this expansion, IBM Client Engineering will drive innovation across the MEA region by providing an enhanced customer experience, focused on co-creation, technical eminence and speed.

With innovation at the heart of our business, we look forward to substantially increasing our revenue through the IBM ecosystem and helping organizations across various industries in the region drive innovation, create value, and transform their business models.

 

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