The type of support IBM may provide to developers goes a long way toward deciding how successful Lotus platform products are in the market. Just as important is the support the company provides to the Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and system integrators that originally helped establish Notes and Domino, only to face an onslaught of Microsoft offerings as the years went by.
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Lately, IBM has tried to refocus its ISV programs, after some missteps. The fruits for ISVs were unveiled at Lotusphere last week, where IBM made available new marketing resources to Lotus Business Partners.
The program is tailored after IBM's PartnerWorld Industry Networks program, and is very much oriented toward IBM's vertical-industry efforts. Co-selling with ISVs is part of the program. A program known as the Complete Industry Campaign Incentive aids Lotus Business Partners as they target business prospects and seek to generate sales leads.
"What ISVs want us to do is grow the market for them," said Scott Hebner, vice president, Strategy and Marketing, ISV and Developer relations, IBM. As well, new programs expand the ability of Lotus Partners to access IBM technical resources, including its innovation centers, he said.
"Traditionally we worked with ISVs brand by brand. We had hundreds of programs. That could be hard for an ISV to navigate," said Hebner. Things have improved, he maintained, since IBM left the applications business. This is touted as a competitive advantage versus Microsoft, which has jumped into applications with its purchase of Great Plains Software and Navistar.
When IBM formally exited the application business under the guidance of then-company head Lou Gerstner, it renewed its ISV push. That effort started at the top, with the 200 leading IBM ISV. These companies are much larger than those that typically make up the Lotus ISV market. Now, indicated Hebner, as IBM looks to improve in small and medium business settings, Lotus Partners are particularly key.
There has been a transformation at IBM, said Hebner, "from a company that was direct-sales oriented, with 'blue suits' going out and selling" to a new paradigm where the company works deliberately with partners.