IBM: prepare to Kick Butt

IBM Corp. executives Monday had a fairly simple message for its business partners: Go after Sun Microsystems Inc.

IBM Corp. executives Monday had a fairly simple message for its business partners: Go after Sun Microsystems Inc. and EMC Corp.

Speaking at IBM's PartnerWorld 2000 conference (formerly the Business Partner Executive Conference), Big Blue executives left no doubt as to their primary targets in 2000.

"We have two bad guys: Sun and EMC," said Sam Palmisano, senior VP and group executive of IBM's Enterprise Systems Group. "You are going to see a much more aggressive IBM when it comes to Sun and EMC."

IBM has made a major marketing push over the past two years to make the IBM brand synonymous with e-business. But in reality, Sun servers and EMC storage devices power many top electronic-commerce sites. And IBM has acknowledged that many e-commerce integrators lack familiarity with IBM products. The company last year created a Web-integrator program to address the brand awareness situation and create a new channel for its server and storage products.

This year, IBM says it has hundreds of Web integrators as allies. Now the company plans to unleash its partners in a battle for market share. Specifically, IBM aims to take two points from Sun's share of the server market and two points from EMC's slice of the storage sector. "We'll take Unix share," Palmisano predicted, noting that IBM needs to address Sun's success in the Web/portal server space. IBM, meanwhile, is "training a killer force to go after EMC."

Gerstner: 'Kick Some Butt'

Specifics on how IBM plans to accomplish this market-grabbing task will unfold during the course of this week's conference, the executives said. The executives, however, provided a rough outline of its strategy during opening statements at the meeting.

Bill Etherington, senior VP and group executive of sales and distribution at IBM, pointed to a 180-day attack program, which boils down to beating competitors into e-business accounts.

"We have to get there first," Etherington said.

A key to the six-month program is prompting business partners to sell in places where they have not sold before. Etherington said the chief information officer's office will remain important, but noted that line-of-business executives in procurement and marketing, among other areas, have also become important decision makers. Etherington, citing IBM research, noted that 68 percent of IT-purchasing decisions among large enterprises are initiated outside of the chief information officer's purview.

In terms of marketing, IBM executives emphasized the partners' role in tapping small to mid-sized business accounts. IBM also pointed to dot-com start-ups--"Net Gen" companies in IBM's vocabulary--as an important revenue opportunity.

Louis Gerstner, IBM chairman and chief executive officer, presented via video at PartnerWorld; he was at an IBM board of directors meeting Monday and unable to attend. But he also beat the drums for winning market share. He said IBM and its partners need to win "e-business market share in chunks" and urged attendees to "kick some butt" in the marketplace.

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