Success in the ecosystem: Be a part of it!

I originally joined IBM in 2007. And over the next decade I developed my career, eventually filling a channel software marketing role, where I built a good relationship with IBM Business PROFI AG.

PROFI is a German-based provider of IT systems and software. A mid-sized, family company of around 320 employees, PROFI relies heavily on the channel ecosystem for its go-to-market, both in terms of the solutions it sells, and in how it structures its business. PROFI became an IBM business partner in 1986, and our relationship has grown to the point where today it is one of the largest IBM partners in Germany.

PROFI was also a major proponent of the IBM Champions for Growth program – an IBM initiative that enables IBMers to use their knowledge and experiences to help key players in our partner ecosystem by joining them. Acting as “employee” within these partner organizations, participants of the program are able to expand their skills and develop their careers, working directly for our partners and clients for a previously agreed-upon timeframe.

PROFI placed its first IBMer secondee – or reassigned worker – as part of the IBM Champions for Growth program 15 years ago, and to date, over 35 IBMers have worked there. Some have even decided to stay with PROFI and became permanent members of the team. Technical specialists, sales leaders and even PROFI’s Executive in Charge of Sales, Stefan Langhirt, all joined having worked as part of Champions for Growth.

Up to that point, however, all IBMers working under the Champions for Growth program had been in sales roles. As a career marketer, I knew that I could bring something new and different. So I began talking to the Champions for Growth team about the potential for other roles joining the program.

A different kind of recruiting

I have been at PROFI since February 2019, working with our partner ecosystem to develop marketing programs that balance PROFI’s own strategy of technology-led engagements with our partners’ brand and sales strategy.

The route by which I came to this role might seem unusual, but for PROFI, it is a part of their everyday business strategy with IBM. The war for talent is a big topic everywhere and PROFI needs a wide recruiting mix to make sure they can get the best people. As a result, C4G program is an active part of PROFI’s recruiting strategy.

As Anna Etzel, HR manager for PROFI, explains it:

“Champions for Growth is a much more flexible program than some might think. PROFI actively seeks out specialized IBM resources to help them grow their business not just in sales, but also in key business units.

“It is a win-win situation for all. IBMers get to know PROFI as a Business Partner, learn how our business works in partnership and also they get the possibility to experience working in a company other than IBM. As a result, everybody also gets a chance to make alliances which will stay with them in their future career. When we say that IBM is in our DNA, we mean it!”

A different kind of career path

As an IBMer, I have been able to develop an intimate knowledge of PROFI, its ecosystem and the way they do business. As a marketing specialist, I’m able to understand the challengers that vendors experience and the strategies they would like their partners to have in order to drive growth. It’s a balancing act – PROFI wants to focus on business topics in a vendor neutral way, while the vendors themselves of course are looking to prominently place their solutions in that business context via co-marketing.

My job is to ensure that we position PROFI strategically while at the same time giving the vendors PROFI works with the level of prominence that serves their strategic needs. It’s a hugely rewarding role.

It is also a unique opportunity to experience IBM’s partner ecosystem from within, and to not just compare how the two businesses work, but to help PROFI and IBM to find ways of working more closely together. It has opened up new perspectives on both sides and been instrumental to PROFI’s growth.

On a more personal level, to the point Anna makes about IBM being a part of PROFI’s DNA, I can testify to that. In the six months since I joined, I have come to think of myself as a part of their business. When I talk about PROFI to friends and colleagues, I refer to them as “we”, and not “they”. It’s an organization that lives and breathes IBM, and I’m proud to be a part of it. To any IBMers who are looking for a way to broaden their capabilities in the ecosystem and to partners who have a particular need to strengthen their ability to market, sell and grow with IBM, I can enthusiastically recommend they check out the IBM Champions for Growth program.

Explore the program