IBM partners say Marc Dupaquier, Big Blue's newly appointed channel chief and general manager of Global Business Partners, has yet to reveal his channel cards, and his partner track record remains a mystery. Partners say Dupaquier, who replaced Mark Hennessy as channel chief on Friday, is an unknown quantity and that they are anxious to know where the 29-year IBM veteran stands on a number of critical channel issues as the Armonk, N.Y.-based company struggles to revive its ailing hardware business and get its SoftLayer cloud strategy off the ground.
"How does Dupaquier see the channel? Is he going to reinvent the wheel or keep what's working in the channel? We just don't know. Right now, we don't know anything about who this guy is or what his channel DNA is," said one top vendor executive from a large IBM partner who did not want to be identified. "The bottom line is: Does Dupaquier get the channel or not? That's a big unknown."
Dupaquier stepped into the role of IBM's channel chief at a challenging juncture for the company. In October, IBM blamed a $1 billion revenue shortfall for its third-quarter earnings on faltering hardware sales as more of its customers turn to the cloud. That cloud transition, IBM partners tell CRN, has been arduous for them, with Big Blue phasing out its SmartCloud solution in favor of SoftLayer.
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"We are four weeks out from IBM PartnerWorld. What are Marc [Dupaquier's] goals and objectives for PartnerWorld? Is he meeting with channel partners now?" said Michael Gray, COO at Champion Solutions Group, an IBM partner based in Boca Raton, Fla. "There is nothing unique here; Marc needs to communicate to partners what his vision is and where he wants to take the channel."
IBM declined to make Dupaquier available for an interview.
Gray and other IBM partners say they are eager to know if Dupaquier will keep the channel status quo or if he will shoulder bigger channel challenges such as unifying different lines of IBM's business into a more singular channel strategy. "How is he going balance IBM's hardware business versus its cloud business and integrate software and services? Marc has some real challenges," Gray said.
Former channel chief Hennessy was known among IBM partners for not rocking the boats and maintaining a stick-to-it strategy focused on pushing the channel into more midmarket accounts with programs such as Smarter Planet solutions and its PureSystems technology. But for some partners, who preferred not to be identified, they told CRN they are hoping for something new from the channel chief.
"Right now IBM's direct sales teams work with a small percent of channel community. That's causing problems," said an IBM partner who asked not to be identified. "Customers need consistent messaging. IBM needs to open up and work with the entire channel, not a select few, so everyone is on the same page selling the total IBM solution."
Bill Gleich, president of Jeskell Systems, a Laurel, Md.-based solution provider and IBM partner, said that "If there is one company with a strong bench of executive leaders to pull from, it's IBM. I don't know Dupaquier, but I'm confident Marc will be a great asset to the channel. I hope he thinks what Hennessy has brought to the channel is good and he won't try to reinvent it."
NEXT: More IBM Channel UnknownsDupaquier's channel background, gained at IBM, suggests he has had a long relationship with IBM business partners under different guises, running Big Blue's $6 billion SMB hardware, software and services business for two years and leading its strategy and end-to-end global marketing for four years, working as a "channel marketing and communication" specialist.
Another IBM channel unknown is who will fill the shoes of Bill Donohue, who stepped down from his post in August as vice president, business partner and midmarket sales. Sources tell CRN IBM is close to hiring a replacement for Donohue and the news could come as early as next week.
Champion Solutions Group's Gray praised IBM's former channel chief Hennessy for building strong relationships with channel partners and creating programs that helped partners like Champion Solutions Group flourish. "Mark Hennessey did a great job. He did what he could and did a lot of good -- bringing up margins, simplifying programs. He did a good job of putting more hardware in the channel."
As for the future, another IBM partner, who also requested anonymity, said: "If there is one thing that Marc will have to deal with, it's pushing a one channel strategy. Different lines of business have different margins; different front-end incentives require different certification, offer different marketing dollars and require different ways of submitting payment. Hardware is different than software. If hardware sales soften and software sales rise, channel priorities are going to have to change."
PUBLISHED JAN. 10, 2013