Partners in AI – Six Five On The Road at IBM Think

Partners in AI - Six Five On The Road at IBM Think

On this episode of Six Five On The Road, hosts Patrick Moorhead and Daniel Newman are joined by IBM’s Kate Woolley, General Manager, Ecosystem at IBM for a conversation on the evolution and impact of IBM’s Partner Plus program and the importance of strong tech partnerships in leveraging Watson.

Their discussion covers:

  • The growth and evolution of the Partner Plus program at IBM over the past year.
  • An overview of the strong partnerships IBM has cultivated across the tech landscape and the work behind making these collaborations a reality.
  • A deep dive into some of the most impactful partnerships related to Watson.
  • Kate Woolley’s vision for the Ecosystem team over the next two years, marking her own journey at IBM.

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Patrick Moorhead: The Six Five is On the Road in Boston, Massachusetts. We’re at IBM Think 2024, and we are talking AI, AI, AI. It’s been an incredible year so far, Daniel, and it seems like we’re doing a lot of AI.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. Well, I mean, we knew this was the direction that it was going to be heading, it’s been really moving this way for the last two years. And again, you and I have talked pretty endlessly about it for decades of AI and algorithmic developments, and now we’re starting to really see it come to life in the enterprise, and we’re seeing the proliferation. And some of the consumer technologies that really brought it to the forefront is creating this vacuum and inertia of excitement for the enterprise, which is a lot of what we’re hearing here at IBM Think.

Patrick Moorhead: That’s right. And a year ago, IBM announced Watsonx, the Six Five, we were there on site talking about it. And I remember as the follow-up, the company was the first company to have it go GA on an enterprise wide AI platform. It was super amazing. I had to do the double click, because it was just such a big deal. One theme that we talk about throughout our research and also our video analysis, is that it takes a village, right?

Daniel Newman: It does.

Patrick Moorhead: No company can go out there on their own, whether it’s infrastructure, whether it’s software, whether it’s channels. It takes a village to accomplish what you need to do to serve those enterprises. And I am bringing back a guest of The Six Five last year, Kate Woolley, who leads pretty much all of the IBM ecosystem. Kate, welcome back on the show.

Kate Woolley: Thank you, fantastic to be here.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, Kate, it’s great to have you. About a year ago we sat down, we sort of talked about the development of your partner ecosystem and program, and you’d given us a bit of an update of where it’s at. Yesterday from the stage we heard Arvind Krishna talking a little bit about some of these partnerships, we saw some press releases come out, and I’m sure everybody out there would love to get a little bit of an update. What has happened over the last year, and how has the partnership program developed, Kate?

Kate Woolley: So we’ve had a lot of momentum over the last year, Daniel. I mean, it’s continuing to build. Partner Plus has been around for over a year now, we’re seeing a lot of momentum. You talked about it takes a village, I talked about in my keynote earlier in the week, it’s all about collaboration, it’s all about meeting our clients where they’re at. We’re seeing huge momentum with the program, we’ve had 1500 new partners come into the program, people want to be a part of the IBM ecosystem. We’ve announced a lot of new strategic partnerships, I know we’re going to talk a lot about those here. We’ve had our partners engage with our skilling, we’ve had over 250,000 skills added, badges added to our partner ecosystem. So just seeing an incredible amount of momentum.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah. I mean, I’m always struck with the of logos. I mean, it’s not just the amount of logos, but it’s the depth and the breadth in the companies. And I was impressed Arvind did the logo slide, and it was pretty awesome. A lot of people don’t know what it takes to actually do your job. We get little bite-sized nuggets of it at events like this, we might see a press release or something like that, but what does it take to manage a relationship? A very strategic relationships, when I look at the companies that are on your docket.

Kate Woolley: Yes. I think there are a lot of tangible and intangible elements as to how and where we bring the partnerships together. I think to start with, we need recognition and acknowledgement up and down both organizations, that we really want to lean in here that we think we can do more together than we can do apart. I think we want to think really big. We talk about billion dollar partnerships, we want both sides thinking about big partnerships together.

I think we have to bring the holistic view of both organizations, this can’t just be a sales thing or a product thing, it has to bring together sales and product, IBM Consulting, Red Hat, all of that together. And then I think the intangible trust and transparency that we have in these partnerships is absolutely critical. We’ve got to be willing to break stuff, and realize that when we build it back, it’s going to be stronger. But we’ve got to have that trust there.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah. So it sounds like, first of all, a big process of determining who you want to partner with. Because you could partner with everybody and anybody, and everybody would want to partner with IBM on something. But it sounds like a strategic outcome is one, co-investment I’m sure is in here, and you’re obviously having quarterly updates to make sure you’re on track.

Kate Woolley: Yes.

Patrick Moorhead: Okay.

Kate Woolley: We’re talking all the time. I mean, we might have formal quarterly updates, but I’m talking all the time with our partners on all different things.

Patrick Moorhead: Right, like “Hey, Kate. This is AWS, what’s going on here?”

Kate Woolley: Yes, exactly.

Daniel Newman: Which is very much the norm with your customers. Meaning in our firms, we work with hundreds of the most important tech companies in the world. And of course you have your regular events like this, but in between you have to be, because… And by the way, with these transformations, Kate, that are going on, the new roll-outs, new products, new wins are so much more frequent, the speed of innovation is happening so fast, your program has to innovate really quickly. I know Arvind had Shantanu from Adobe on stage, I think you’ve had some other big announcements, I mentioned in the run-up AWS. Talk a little bit about some of these particularly impactful partnerships and how they’re progressing.

Kate Woolley: There are so many to choose from, but let me hit a couple of them. You mentioned Shantanu on stage with Arvind. So Adobe’s a fantastic example of a partnership where we’re bringing the power of Watsonx and Red Hat OpenShift to the Adobe Experience platform to help drive the customer experience for Adobe’s clients. I think we’ve had… Dell Tech World was this week as well, and there was an announcement around Dell APEX Cloud, which is leveraging IBM’s Instana to do observability inside of that. So that’s another great example of partnerships coming together.

You mentioned AWS, really strong partnership with AWS, as we have a lot of our software offerings available on the AWS Marketplace. We just expanded that from five countries to 92 countries globally, so huge availability and partnering with AWS. You have a great partnership with Microsoft, bringing Apptio onto Azure and scaling that internally is one of the things we’ve been doing recently, but so much more to that partnership as well. So there are so many partnerships to choose from, and we’re excited about where they’re heading.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, it’s funny, as you rattle off some of your strategic partners, I’m scrolling through the events that Dan and I attended, Adobe Summit, Dell Tech World, AWS re:Invent. And I’ve been tracking IBM for almost 35 years, and it really does feel like a new IBM. An IBM that knows what it wants to do itself. But more importantly, understanding what it needs to do and activate clients, and which partners it needs to fill in there. So hats off to you. Is Partner Plus two years old?

Kate Woolley: We started last year, so it’s a bit over a year old.

Patrick Moorhead: So we talked… Well, I talked about the past, we talked about what’s going on right now. Can you give us a little glimpse of where you want to take this in the future? It’s not like IBM’s done partnering, “Hey, we have our partners. We’re going to go do this generative AI thing, we’ll talk to you in a few years.” So what does the future look like, Kate?

Kate Woolley: Well, I think when Arvind was with all of our partners on Monday and speaking with them at Partner Plus Day, from just a measurement standpoint, he talked about around 30% of IBM’s revenue with partners, we want to make that 50% in the next few years. Obviously the company’s growing, so there is a lot of growth to come with our partners. And I think the way in which we do that, we want to continue to make sure that we’re putting our clients at the center of this. This is about meeting our clients where they are, and delivering the most amount of value to them.

And I think the way in which we do that is with the strategic partnerships, a lot that we’ve talked about, how do we continue to do more with our strategic partners? But it’s also about having the program recognize that partners are going to engage with us in lots of different ways. So no matter what their business model is, and no matter how they want to engage with IBM technology, whether it’s embedding our technology, whether it’s selling our technology, whether it’s building services around our technology with our service partners, we want to embrace that and have a program that continues to evolve to meet those partners where they are to meet our client needs.

Patrick Moorhead: That’s great.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, it’s really interesting too, is the evolution of all the companies that you’re partnering with. I guess out of curiosity, you see the tech capacity and capabilities of these companies are always expanding, and so one of the things I noticed too is you’re on stage now and these partner relationships coexist inside of sometimes what are competitive relationships too, right?

Kate Woolley: Yes.

Daniel Newman: Can you share a little bit about the dynamics there? Is it about creating the stovepipes, the partners focus on the partnerships, and of course, you both have your teams. Where you can keep progressing together and you build that trust layer together, but at the same time, you know that sometimes you may walk in and realize that AWS won a project that you also were going in with an IBM-AWS solution. And vice versa, IBM went in something that was… You went in with an Adobe Microsoft… How does that sort of work? And I mean, how do people keep competition and the partnerships in a practical view?

Kate Woolley: I mean, I think coopetition, you said it, it’s become so prevalent when we look across the technology industry. But I think it comes back to what we talked about earlier, the trust and transparency. We have to be upfront with our partners where we are going to compete and where we’re not going to compete. And while now the added complexity is we’re asking our teams to operate in that gray area, it’s no longer black and white, but that’s the fun of it as well. And I think that Arvind talks a lot about growing the pie. We can achieve more, one plus one equals three, we can achieve more and grow the pie more when we are cooperating, and working together, and really going to our clients together. But you’re right, it does add a lot of complexity, that’s my life.

Patrick Moorhead: Such a mature view. I mean, boy, have we evolved as an industry. But I mean, everybody has embraced this, it does take a village. And I’ll admit, I was surprised when I saw the IBM app show up in the AWS marketplace. But your clients were asking for it, and it made sense for IBM, it made sense for AWS. And at that point I knew, “Wow, this is a different company here.” So I’m sure you had something to do with that, but I noticed it in a big way. And not just from an IBM point of view, but even from an AWS point of view. So keep up the good work.

Kate Woolley: Thank you very much, Pat.

Patrick Moorhead: Absolutely.

Daniel Newman: All right, Kate. Well, we thank you so much for being with us here at this year’s Think 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts, Kate.

Kate Woolley: Thank you, Dan.

Daniel Newman: We’ll have to have you back again, we’ll do this again.

Kate Woolley: I would love to be back.

Daniel Newman: All right. And everyone out there, we thank you so much for joining us here for the Six Five On the Road at IBM Think 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts. Subscribe, be part of our community, join us for all of our shows. Enjoy the rest of Think, we’ll see you all soon.

Author Information

Daniel is the CEO of The Futurum Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise.

From the leading edge of AI to global technology policy, Daniel makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology investments. Daniel is a top 5 globally ranked industry analyst and his ideas are regularly cited or shared in television appearances by CNBC, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal and hundreds of other sites around the world.

A 7x Best-Selling Author including his most recent book “Human/Machine.” Daniel is also a Forbes and MarketWatch (Dow Jones) contributor.

An MBA and Former Graduate Adjunct Faculty, Daniel is an Austin Texas transplant after 40 years in Chicago. His speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.


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