Build better solutions by taking advantage of available technologies

By | 7 minute read | June 7, 2021

Grocery store shelves

Jon Panella is the Vice President of Customer Experience Platform Practice at Publicis Sapient and Swati Moran is the Program Director of the IBM PartnerWorld Program. Recently, Jon and Swati met to discuss the relationship between Publicis Sapient and IBM.

Swati: Jon, thank you for joining me today.

Jon: Thanks for having me.

Swati: I’ll jump right in. We know that you adopted one of our key benefits of the IBM® PartnerWorld® Program, the Partner Packages. I’d like to hear about your experience as an IBM Business Partner with the Enterprise Partner Package.

Jon: First of all, let me say that I really like where you’re going with the Program because I think it helps the Service Partners like ourselves, much more than before. Now it’s really about services. From our perspective, we [Publicis Sapient] want to be able to provide solutions to our clients that use IBM technology.

I think one of the things that’s really evolved is the relationship that Publicis Sapient has with IBM. We’ve had a relationship around commerce, around marketing platforms and around supply chain, but it used to be very much a transactional relationship. That’s much less the model today. It is this new collaborative, strategic partnership that we’re looking to develop.

Today, we’re looking at how to work with IBM in a way to develop solutions—whether it’s our Returns Optimization solution, our Supply Train Control Tower solution or our new one called Inventory Media Optimizer. We want to take IBM solutions and find a way to differentiate with our expertise and deliver those to a client in a repeatable manner.

For example, the Returns Optimization Solution is very much targeted at retailers that are in the current COVID-19 world, where most shopping is online. Our clients are telling us that they are experiencing return rates at 20-25%. Customers order something, but when they want to send it back, retailers have to deal with those added costs.

We needed to look at retail another way. What other solution helps our clients to intelligently determine to take the product back? And if they do take it back, do they sell them something else? With the intelligence of Watson, they can use the knowledge of what inventory exists and try to influence them to buy something else.

So today, it’s much more about our business model around how we identify opportunity and design solutions (products and services) that incorporate IBM technologies and be able to co-sell those solutions.

PartnerWorld Program benefits for Publicis Sapient

Swati: Jon, you’re speaking directly about our PartnerWorld Program and our Build, Service and Sell tracks. In your case, it’s more about  how you’re building products and services, versus reselling IBM technology. That is how you make money.

Jon: No question. We have the Inventory Media Optimizer, which to explain in simplest terms, we want to be able to take inventory information as Publicis Sapient, and take it to the companies that we have relationships with at the Publicis Groupe level—the agencies that are investing in paid media. These companies need to know where their inventory positions exist, so that they don’t oversell something that they don’t have, and waste a ton of media dollars.

So from our perspective, we think we have the unique opportunity to understand the inventory in the fulfillment channels and be able to share that information withour clients. It is really about building solutions, and then about implementing them and analyzing the impact as we go.

Swati: That makes a lot of sense, Jon. We know that you started working with PartnerWorld with the No-Cost Entry Package, which then led you to invest in the Enterprise Package. What led you to that decision?

Jon: It was to try to take real advantage of a broader set of IBM technology.

From my perspective, we previously didn’t take advantage of IBM Watson®, IBM Cloud Pak® and Hybrid Cloud solutions like we could have. We also didn’t leverage your cyber security solutions. In my opinion, investing in the Enterprise Partner Package was a way for us to take what we do well, and try to find those adjacencies within the organization and take advantage of them.

I have a team right now getting ramped up on Watson Discovery Adviser® and Watson Assistant because we have an opportunity in our Data and AI organization. We’re making the investment and saying okay, let’s figure out what we do well, and continue to do that, but while we’re  at it, let’s find where we can take advantage of those adjacent solutions and move into those spaces.

So, I thought it was a worthwhile investment to make. IBM just made a huge commitment to us by selecting us to build the next generation of IBM Sterling® Order Management. In Q2, we will be up to 125 people embedded with the IBM product teams delivering that solution—with your team. IBM gave us support through the Enterprise Package and provided access to offering leaders that helped us assess and understand IBM technologies like Watson Assistant.

IBM invests and supports us, so we want to invest in areas where can we leverage IBM solutions more broadly. We do a lot of business with Google Cloud and with AWS—but there’s room for something else.

Swati: That’s awesome to hear, Jon. What do you foresee as some of the bigger challenges, even with some of our Programs?

Jon: I think the biggest challenge is probably the one I just mentioned—that we have relationships already with Microsoft, Google and AWS. People know how to use them.

Right now, there’s less knowledge about the IBM solutions within our organization and about what IBM can offer to us. Our people, including me, don’t understand everything that IBM has to offer beyond marketing, commerce and order management. So, I think educating our people on how to take advantage of all that IBM has to offer is big through the IBM PartnerWorld Program.

Swati: Makes sense. And in terms of the Enterprise Package, what is the value that you see in this Partner Package?

Jon: Well, I think is twofold.

One is the broad access to the software.

With the Partner Package, we gained access to Cloud Paks and every piece of IBM software out there. Earlier, we wouldn’t have purchased demo or development licenses because we wouldn’t have known the need until after the client made the request.

Now, it’s proactive, rather than reactive. To have that exposure to the software is great. And now I can do some enablement with the number of certifications and the training that we get through the Partner Package. This is huge for us to ramp up some capabilities.

The other is that I think the Cloud credits are pretty enormous from our perspective. The ratio of Cloud credits to the amount of money we invested is a really good deal. Let’s be honest, USD 85,000 in Cloud credits as part of the purchase essentially makes it pay for itself.

We have to figure out how to use all those credits and the best way to do it. Last year, IBM invested in us. That investment allowed us to invest in marketing and other resources and allowed us to do many of the things that we did last year. So from my perspective, the investment just was a no-brainer to me. It just made a ton of sense.

Swati: Great point, Jon. What would be your recommendation to other Business Partners about our Program and the Packages?

Jon: One of the big things I’d say to them is to avail yourself ofall that IBM can offer. It’s more than that IBM owns The Weather Channel® and Watson.

I was able to visit Watson facility and went to all the demos and learned a lot. You really need to learn and understand the solutions and how to leverage with clients… Watson, the Cloud and the cybersecurity offerings…all that IBM offers.

It’s an investment and it is a significant investment. But to avail yourself of all that IBM can offer—that’s the value.

Swati: Last but not least, if you had just a minute to explain why you partner with IBM, what would you say?

Jon: I’d suggest that others  think of IBM in the same way they think of Google and Microsoft. Don’t think of them just as a software provider, think of them as a solution provider. If you’re going to think of somebody as a solution partner, then you need to understand what solutions they can bring to the table. I think we started with IBM as a hardware and software provider, but IBM is so much more than that today.

We chose to make an investment in the Enterprise Package with IBM and it’s a different IBM. Today, IBM is truly our partner.

Swati: That’s a great way to end this. Thank you for your time, Jon.

Jon: Thank you, Swati. My pleasure.