Reacting to reports IBM has begun laying off as many as 15,000 employees as part of a $1 billion "workforce rebalancing" effort, IBM business partners say changes at Big Blue could be their gain.
Some IBM partners have told CRN they are optimistic that any potential changes at IBM could be an opportunity to work more closely with the vendor.
One partner seeing positive signs for partners is managing director at IBM partner Sun Data, Kon Kakanis. While Kakanis said it wasn't easy to predict whether any changes at IBM might mean more work for partners, he said one outcome might be more opportunities to get close to some of IBM's larger customers.
"If you look at the trend over the last several years, named account lists are getting smaller. And a higher percentage of vendor account lists go through the channel. And this change continues that trend," Kakanis told CRN.
Kakanis said that while partners find it generally hard to get onto big vendor's named account lists, that is changing. "I've seen some indications of it," he said. " I've seen a change in behaviour from IBM."
Also upbeat about business with IBM is CEO of Southern Cross Computer Systems Mike Sakalas, who argues there is a "clear opportunity" to work closer with the vendor.
"From our standpoint we have such a good capability around IBM, if there is a reduction in the workforce - and we don't know if that's the case - that just means they are going to have to leverage their key partners further. Which for companies like us is fantastic."
Sakalas viewed IBM's stated push to focus on cloud, analytics and cognitive computing as a positive step into "higher value" territory, compared with a lower level commodity business. The question is which pieces IBM will invest in internally, and which they will require partners to invest in.
"For us it is a better chance to get closer to IBM. I can't answer for every IBM partner, but if you embrace the IBM portfolio there's a good chance you're embracing the software, services and cloud."
Also seeing increasing opportunities with Big Blue is Advent One managing director Graeme Clark. While he would not speculate on what, if any, changes IBM might be making within their business, he agreed that if IBM were to reduce the amount of business they do directly with customers, there could be an upside. "If IBM were to do that I would expect that yes it would mean more business for partners," he said.
Clark said IBM had a strong strategy for partners to be a key part of their route to market. "We've seen that get stronger over time," he said.
IBM's positioning when it comes to the cloud and pioneering areas like their new $1 billion Watson unit is a reminder partners need to stay agile, said Telsyte senior analyst Rodney Gedda.
"The key message is they need to find that balance, they need to be agile themselves. They can’t rely on IBM supporting one technology endlessly."
He said there is an opportunity for partners to work with IBM in areas like mobile application development, integration work, high value areas like mainframes and P series, and blue sky areas like Watson and artificial intelligence.
"I think the company is by and large committed to channel partners. I don't see that changing anytime. I think there's a good opportunity for partners to bash on IBM's door and see if there's any opportunity in emerging areas."
Sources tell CRN US that the layoffs will disproportionately impact IBM's hardware-centric Systems and Technology Group. CNET is reporting that nearly 25 percent in the Systems and Technology Group is on the chopping block.
IBM reported its revenues dropped from US$29.30 billion a year ago to US$27.70 billion in its most recent fiscal quarter. That marked the fourth straight quarterly sales decline for the vendor.