IBM's North American Channel Chief: Wired For The Channel


IBM's new North American channel chief Tami Duncan says she is channel smart and ready to bring her professional experience -- both as a once IBM partner as well as Big Blue's channel program manager -- to her new job that starts Feb. 1.

In her first interview since being tapped last week as IBM's vice president, IBM global business partners, North America., Duncan shed light on her channel resume and dropped clues about how she will manage Big Blue's 36,000 member North American channel program.

"I've felt a lot of the frustrations partners sometimes feel. I've felt it from the other side as a partner. When someone comes to me at IBM and says something is going to be good for the channel and we have got to do this, my brain goes immediately to, 'is there profit for the channel? Why? Does it make sense, and how much investment will it require and what's the return on the partners' investment?'" Duncan said.

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Duncan, 23-year IBM veteran, said her channel chops trace back to 1996 at IBM where she managed a hardware sales team in the mid-west and where she recruited partners and helped sharpen their skills along with broadening their Big Blue product portfolios. But Duncan gained her deep understanding of what it's like to be an IBM partner during her two-year break from the company, while she served as vice president of sales at solution provider MSI.

"That two years with MSI changed the wiring in my brain and how I think about the channel. That experience is going to be incredibly valuable in my new role. I know every change we make to the channel requires due diligence. We need to make sure we have the right give-and-take with partners," Duncan said.

After her stint with MSI, which was later acquired by Sirius Computer Solutions, Duncan held a number of different positions at IBM that included designing IBM's partner reward program, and she later served as IBM's client director for Avnet.

Duncan -- who spent the last year as IBM's Client Advocacy Executive where she coordinated and managed client relations for IBM's top executives, including CEO Virginia Rometty -- faces big challenges. Hardware sales from IBM's Systems and Technology group for the third quarter plummeted 17 percent in the most recent quarter to $3.2 billion on a loss of $167 million. Sagging hardware sales have partners grumbling and anxious for IBM to turn $2 billion acquisition SoftLayer into a Web service to sell to customers.

"We need to collaborate with partners to reach new markets and look for more ways to drive higher-value opportunities across the board. The market is in a time of amazing change. And with that change brings challenges, but it also brings opportunities," Duncan said.

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