IBM boosts midmarket partner play

Big Blue's new tools are designed to help partners sell to small and midsize businesses--a key area for IBM.

IBM has ratcheted up its outreach program to partners with the release of a fresh set of product bundles targeted at medium-size businesses.

On Tuesday, IBM announced a series of templates, built around its Express portfolio of products, for business partners that sell to midsize businesses. The offerings, which include software, hardware and installation recommendations, are meant to be a "starting point" for IBM resellers, the company said.

The bundles include collaborative document management tools for banking Web sites, analytics applications for e-commerce, and a portal offering for IBM's iSeries servers.

The packages are part of an ongoing campaign at IBM to sign on more partners, including value-added resellers and independent software vendors (ISVs), to build finished applications using IBM's infrastructure software and hardware. IBM last year earmarked $500 million specifically for boosting sales through partners to businesses with between 100 and 1,000 employees.

IBM says that its push into smaller organizations is picking up. When reporting the company's first-quarter earnings in April, IBM said small and medium-size businesses were the fastest-growing industry segment, with a 15 percent revenue increase, compared with the same period last year.

The company's key competitor in winning over partners is Microsoft, which has a large partner network, including thousands of application providers, according to industry analysts. Microsoft has also traditionally been strong with smaller corporate customers and with individual departments of large organizations.

In another announcement aimed at luring over Microsoft partners, IBM last week expanded its ISV "industry network" program to include the insurance and government industries. The program, launched earlier this year, provides online marketing and sales resources to ISVs and value-added resellers by specific industry.

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