PartnerWorld – Day 3, Leaving Las Vegas

Got up at 4 to get to the airport for an early flight. My favorite thing about Las Vegas is leaving. I’ve been coming here since the early 80’s for computer shows and the thrill is gone. To give you a perspective on how long I’ve been coming, my first recollection is the Comdex where the hot product was a Visicalc replacement named Lotus 1-2-3, then not an IBM SWG middleware division.

I passed the barely awake Barb Darrow of CRN checking out. I also passed a couple of blond beauties who were coming in as I was going out. I wondered if it was the walk of shame as they were carrying their shoes. Other than that, it was just me and the cleaning crew.

I type this from the BK lounge as that’s all that is open at 5:30 am. Since I didn’t smoke, drink or gamble once again, the worst thing I did was eat a grease bomb for breakfast, the first time in years for me.

The people watching is interesting. It’s easy to spot the travel regulars, early hours don’t faze them, they know the routine. It’s easy to tell who is still hung over as they can’t eat. There’s a guy behind me that “only” lost $1000 or so. I think I have better ways to spend that kind of money. The teenager in front of me continues to pick her thong out of uh, the place that it gets stuck, always a pleasant sight.

I don’t get why people bring their kids to Vegas, a theme park is a lot more healthy for their upbringing than the things that go on in this place. I had two professional ladies in my elevator this trip, kids don’t need to be exposed to this.

Back to PartnerWorld, most of the press and analysts are gone, so it’s just the partners that are left. Overall, it was SOA and SVI (channels) with the new PWIN program opening up Research to the partners making most of the news. Overall it was successful, although we should find a way to treat the analysts different from the press. It takes more time as the issues are just deeper and take more than 30 minutes to cover. Alas, it’s the press/analyst center, so like I told my colleagues, if you need more than 30 minutes, do your work prior to the show or go to dinner.

Finally, I always thank God that Las Vegas is in Nevada, a country’s travel away from me in North Carolina.  This way, the scum of the earth that comes to this dump stays away from where I live.

PartnerWorld – Day 2

We’re in the routine of Keynote, press conference, breakouts and 1:1’s. You’ll read about the news in CRN, VarBusiness, eWeek and the likes. I’d have never made it as a reporter.

Since we are a small staff, I get to cover other groups and their executives. I spent the day with Sandy Carter for SOA. Let me start out by saying that she’s a serious trooper. She broke her ankle in 5 places, 4 screws and a sprained knee ligament in her other leg, and didn’t miss a beat. She couldn’t even get up without help but never complained. I introduced myself to the analysts as Glenn Hintze (A/R manager for AIM). Sandy commented that somehow Glenn (me) had gotten much more handsome. Eat your heart out Glenn.

I thought that I was in a partner briefing as the SOA conversation was all about enabling partners, PWIN, and Sales Connections, all stuff we’d say in ISV/Developer Relations. It was clear that the partner story is permeating across the company. The most interesting question I got asked the whole day is what is Buell working on. Answer? Selling the partner programs inside of IBM and getting to the regional level by country around the world, and he’s getting it done.

PartnerWorld has changed alot for me since the old days. It used to be only strategic alliances, but now it’s partners all across spectrum around the globe. May not sound like much to you, but that is a mutli-billion dollar statement and the difference between 100 partners and 6000.

PartnerWorld – Day 1

Today started with the keynote, if you don’t count the gym. I’ll skip the IBM stuff because it was good, but it’ll be widely written about by better writers than I.

Except for the new IBM product called the mobility connection. I’ve always felt the that the ultimate data entry device was voice. They showed getting email on an earpiece, with it sorting out the urgent and being able to answer. Voicing RSS feeds for MP3 devices, all the things you do on a keyboard, now by voice with it actually recognizing you. I’m ready for this, I was never much of a thumb typer. This was absolutely the coolest thing I’d seen. I’ve been an advocate of voice for data entry and manipulation for a long time. Now that the social stigma of looking like you are talking to no one while you’re carrying on a public conversation in an earpiece is gone, this is relevant.

What was way out good was Burt Rutan of Scaled composites and Spaceship 1. Since the theme is Innovation, he was perfect as a speaker. He described how all the major innovators in aviation were kids during the invention of the airplane, that there were no restrictions such as we have today, we are so afraid we might put a foot wrong that no real progress is made. We haven’t been to the moon in since the 79’s and when we go back, it’ll be with similar technology, not to innovate (remember velcro and tang?). In the early years of aviation, many new ideas tried and in 4 years the basic airplane was invented.

His words were Inspire to Dream, let kids invent. You have to have confidence in nonsense because people will say your ideas are nonsensical. Innovators can’t be dismayed by naysayers, which there will always be plenty of. If half of people say it’s impossible, it’s research, if not – it’s only development. and can you take the risk. What’s ironic is I heard the same words from a VP of research at IBM in a 1:1 later in the day. IBM separates Research from Development.

Where I agreed with him was that the most innovative plane ever invented was the SR-71 Blackbird, but that was in 1959, so he defended his innovation statement adroitly.

Humor came in when he said NASA screwed up mars exploration by landing lunar rover in dessert instead of downtown mars. If we’d seen the martians, we’d have been more likely to want to go there and would have done it..

Today’s innovators like Richard Branson, Paul Allen, Jeff Bezos were inspired by Apollo as children, back to his aeronautical references.

His most breakthrough aircraft and innovation was the spaceship 1, that when it re-enters the atmosphere it folds and rights itself making it safer than the Space Shuttle.

Relating to our industry, his first computer was an Apple II that he played games on. The reason computer got better was for fun, that it made us ripe for invention. He cracked a joke that thanks to Al Gore who invented the internet, that’s what spawned the capability to communicate and we had internet commerce.

He pointed out that we need competition. The original space race occurred because we were scared when the Soviets beat the Americans into space. Even now, the only place to buy a ticket to space is from Russia.

Burt predicted safe efficient high volume space flight, in next 15 years, at a value 5 times more valuable than the government NASA program. I agree with this that private enterprise provides the proper environment for competition creating a better product at a lower price.

His prediction – we’ll be able to buy a ticket and fly higher and faster than fastest military fighter today. That will inspire the military to improve and keep up (sub orbital capability). This will make space travel safer as it did for commercial air transportation where the risk is 1 in 4 million that you’ll have an accident. Right now it’s 1 in 62 for space flight. Space flight will be a growth industry. We’ll have a resort hotel in space, competition will drive it and we’ll see a resort trip around the moom and it will happen in his lifetime. Some won’t go back, people will go to colonize and take risk in hostile environment….something we’ve done throughout humanity.

Next there was the analyst conference with Donn Atkins.

Then the Press Conference,

Then 1:1’s which are always interesting, this is where the tough questions come.

That’s day one. Can’t wait for day 2, cause it’s the last one for me.

PartnerWorld, the day before

So here I sit in the Philadelphia Airport waiting for my connection to PartnerWorld in Vegas. Since I have time to reminisce about it, my thought go back to the ’90’s when it was known as BPEC, Business Partner Executive Conference. It was as big then as PW is now, but it seemed more enterprise focused then with respect to the customer. I think we had more channel conflict back then as we were selling applications until 99.

I also recall that each group had it’s own partnering program which caused them to align with either a division or a product, or two, or three. It was difficult as there might have been multiple programs with multiple sign on’s, but it was still good to go to market with IBM as we had a large salesforce to help.

We started to consolidate the partner programs in ’99 when we exited the business applications business and started Software Development Marketing, the precursor to what is now IDR. This finally happened in 2004 where there now is one program for all of IBM.

Through all of this partner history, we’ve had PartnerWorld. It has evolved as the Partner programs have evolved. One thing I’ve noticed is the groundswell of support and activity for and with the partners. I use the term groundswell as it is a surfing term. You paddle like crazy to keep up with the wave until the swell gathers you up to the wave. Once you catch it you either ride just ahead of the break and feed off the momentum of the wave, or get swallowed up, affectionately know as going over the falls.

The amount of activity and RESULTS has been very impressive. I fully expect this PartnerWorld to be just a move forward on the wave, and not over the falls.

I made it to Vegas only 12 hours after I started. Later in the evening, I went to a partner dinner and got to see many folks I work with, but due to different locations, I don’t get to see them much. Here’s some shots at the party.

Tomorrow is the Keynote and the beginning of the real show. Burt Rutan who built the first plane to fly around the world and the first private space travel ship is the guest speaker, can’t wait.

Welcome back all my friends to the show that never ends. We're so glad you could attend come inside, come inside…

IBM’s yearly get together with partners, this year in Las Vegas. Sure it happens next week, but the show began last year with planning and organizing. It’s a miracle that these things happen, we must pull off over a million action items to make four days work for the analysts, press, execs and most of all the Partners.

I already spoke of this event as planning a UN cruise for the Presidents of every country ….and that’s just the IBM’rs. We have 7000+ partners attending (ok, it’s a guess) who are there because they do business with IBM and…..EACH OTHER.

Yes, this isn’t the traditional meetup, but it is an opportunity for programs like Sales connections to proliferate (hint, this link is the key). This is where partners can take advantage of IBM and our programs to work with each other, or to buy advertising and promotion at up to 90% discount. But most of all, to work with the 40,000 IBM sales staff around the world to close business. After all, isn’t that why we are in business?

I’ve seen the partnering programs grow at IBM, and the momentum has taken an upturn. There is activity and programs for almost every place a partner could be from industry specific, from smb to enterprise….smb and IBM, we’ve come a long way to say that.

What it offers most is the hardest thing to do at IBM, find the needle in the haystack or the person that helps you get things done at IBM. Yes, once you accomplish that, having an advocate, you can really take advantage of what we have to offer, which is a lot. When you have this, it won’t guarantee success, but you stack the odds in your favor to go to market with the force that is IBM. No shill job here, there are too many partners figuring this out.

So yes, some will come and lose money, maybe drink too much and other vices offered there, but the savvy will see this for what it is, the opportunity to connect with IBM…come and see the show.