Thomas: You know, I'm amazed by the turnout we've had. It's unbelievable, with everything going on in the economy to have basically the same number of partners here, the same number of clients ... it's fantastic.
developerWorks: What about ... you're working with business partners in particular, specifically. What is the value of a conference like this, specifically for the business partner do you think?
Thomas: You know, there's a couple of things. I'd say the obvious ones are things like training: They can learn new products, new solutions. But what I hear the most from partners of value to them are networking with other partners, believe it or not.
Thomas: They say, "We go back to our office, we do our own thing, we kinda have our blinders on." They come here, open up a whole new world to them, you know. We have one partner who's focused on healthcare start talking to a partner who's focused on life sciences and right away they've made a connection. They say, "Hey we could be doing something together in the market."
The networking piece for partners is rarely talked about, but that's what they all tell me they like the best.
developerWorks: Is that the kind of thing you're hearing this week or what are you hearing?
Thomas: Yeah ... absolutely. It's that, you know, and I think they responded quite well to the new messaging they've heard from us. And prior years it's all been about information on demand and infrastructure and they're saying "IBM's taking us to a new place now." It's one where we've been trying to get IBM to go which is more industry focused and solution focused, so response has been great.
developerWorks: What about the key take-aways, you know? Or about one big take-away that you want business partners to have in mind this week?
Thomas: You know, I want them to be, um, aggressive, despite the fact we're in a tough economy. The partners that are going to be aggressive and take advantage of new innovations, whether it's our Smart Analytics System or building out industry solutions to go after smarter water, smarter healthcare ... uh, I think the key word is "aggressive."
Who's gonna have, you know, the guts to say, "I'm gonna place a bet here, I'm gonna place the bet because I know IBM's behind me and IBM can help drive demand for my solution" ... that's what I really want to see from partners.
developerWorks: You could even say it's aggressive to come to a conference like this in this economy ...
Thomas: Uh huh.
developerWorks: ... you know, but obviously there's some ... you know, the networking and the education, there are a lot of reasons to come.
Thomas: There are. I mean, it's been great and you know, many of the partners arrived here on Friday and they're going to be here through Wednesday so they're making a big investment in time, but, like I said, the response has been fabulous. So I think they're getting what they need from the messaging, and education, the networking perspective ... and I think they're learning some things.
As always, I learn from them as much as they learn from me. I don't think they learn anything from me, to be honest.
Thomas: They learn from others, but not me. But I learn a ton from talking to them which is why I really like being here.
developerWorks: So like we've said, we've talked to a lot of execs ... I mean being here, the value really goes both ways. You guys get as much from it as the customer gets from you, I guess.
Thomas: Absolutely. I find that the less I talk, the more valuable it is for me because I can learn from their stories, I can learn from their experiences.
Last night we had a big group of our Value Net partners together for dinner and just hearing their feedback of "Look, you gotta understand, we're running our business, we have this much working capital, it's a small amount, this is how much we have to invest." It gives me a totally different view of the world.
I think at times we get insulated being in IBM ... [it's] a big company, lot of ... lot of cash flow and it's not the state that all of our partners are in. So we have to help them.
Scott Laningham, host of developerWorks podcasts, was previously editor of developerWorks newsletters. Prior to IBM, he was an award-winning reporter and director for news programming featured on Public Radio International, a freelance writer for the American Communications Foundation and CBS Radio, and a songwriter/musician.