Thomas J. Watson, Sr., early chairman and CEO of IBM, once said, “Education is the foundation of our progress.” As artificial intelligence reshapes business, Watson’s advice still applies: A recent study by the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) finds that 75% of CEOs surveyed believe their competitive advantage will depend on who has the most advanced generative AI. Yet many senior execs say their organization is not ready because they lack in-house proficiency and reskilling can be costly.

The most effective way to help businesses fully and quickly access the potential of generative AI is through an ecosystem of partners with access to AI technology that is accurate, scalable, and adaptable, in combination with the skills and expertise to solve real problems. That’s why IBM continues to deploy enterprise-ready AI and built our partner program on the foundation of developing expertise in the areas most important to clients: AI and hybrid cloud.

IBM Partner Plus is a learning engine that unlocks the power of AI

At the start of 2023 we introduced IBM Partner Plus, emphasizing expertise as the path to partner growth. By offering unprecedented access to IBM resources, incentives, and support, IBM Partner Plus has contributed to the addition of over 3,000 new IBM registered partners in the past six months. Further enhancing the experience of partners, this month we implemented new co-marketing benefits that optimize the funds available at each program tier.

Education is a cornerstone of our approach with partners. Since introducing IBM’s new skilling capabilities in October 2022, we’ve seen more than 70,000 enrollments in one or more IBM badges across our partner organizations, resulting in more than 40,000 completed badges. Unsurprisingly, the hunger for AI-based solutions has created high demand for education around Automation. Specifically, there is interest in IBM products like Instana, Cloud Pak for Integration and Turbonomic, all of which help enterprises improve their operations and lower costs. Clients are demanding solutions involving AI, and partners are stepping up to the challenge to win more.

Equipping partners to embed time-tested AI

In addition to the expertise gap organizations face in adopting AI, another barrier is the cost required to build ML and AI models from scratch. By capitalizing on our decades of AI leadership, partners get access to proven AI technology. It gives them a leg up in bringing their own solutions to market to meet the needs of clients.

For example, IBM offers tools, applications and libraries so partners can build and enhance their own solutions by embedding the same AI that powers our leading Watson products. Partners can now embed core AI technology like Watson Natural Language Processing (NLP) to make application experiences more intelligent, or Watson Discovery to infuse automation into core business workflows. In fact, we recently announced that SAP is embedding IBM Watson natural language capabilities and predictive insights to power the digital assistant in SAP Start, helping to augment decision making and boost user productivity.

Partners at the center of watsonx

Complacency has never been our thing, and we continue to innovate to make it easier for partners to design and deploy AI. In May, IBM launched watsonx, our enterprise-ready AI and data platform, and we made it generally available in July. We have already seen significant interest in the potential of the technology, which many ecosystem partners view as a way to access the power of enterprise-grade AI and meet the blistering pace of client demand. Sean Im, President and CEO of Samsung SDS America, described the launch of watsonx as “an awakening,” which “has inspired us to explore the immense potential of’s generative AI capabilities to deliver unprecedented innovations for our clients.”

Partner interest and curiosity is shaping not only what we do for IBMers, such as equipping our Ecosystem Engineering team with watsonx skills, but also what we make available to our partners. This includes delivering on the rapidly changing world of AI through watsonx, which we believe opens up possibilities for partners who are already exploring the use of Watson, and supported by watsonx proficiency badges, product training and new marketing kits. We also published a new developer page of free generative AI educational courses and content for any developer or IT practitioner interested in building their AI skills.

Continued investment in partners and expertise

IBM is capitalizing on its decades of AI experience to deliver solutions that, along with the specialization and expertise of our partners, can be a powerful combination to help achieve market differentiation. We will continue to invest in new badging and expertise opportunities to put our partners at the forefront of the competitive landscape with clients. We will continue to encourage our partners to tap into those resources, sharpen their talents, and contribute as a central part of the skills multiplier that is our IBM Ecosystem.

In the IBM Ecosystem, we have the most capable set of partners to help clients innovate and modernize their business with AI and hybrid cloud. “You cannot stay in one place,” Thomas Watson, Sr. famously observed. “You either go forward or you go backward.” With a powerful partner ecosystem, we can all move forward—together.

Learn more about the IBM Ecosystem
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