New IBM sales strategy catches CIOs’ attention

IBM is streamlining its operations and simplifying its sales approach to align with a honed focus on hybrid cloud. Will CIOs buy from the revamped business?

IBM’s new sales strategy has caught CIOs’ attention
Stephen Lawson/IDG

Technology titans must continue to evolve, or risk being relegated to the scrap heap of history. IBM doesn’t plan on joining the tech mastodons anytime soon.

The company, whose knack for surviving tech disruptions makes it  hard to root against, has simplified its go-to-market strategy to make it easier for customers and partners, winnowing its sales segments from dozens to two channels. The moves, initiated by CEO Arvind Krishna less than a year into his tenure, are designed to streamline the company’s approach to selling hybrid cloud services and artificial intelligence software. Both are viewed as critical for transforming businesses in the digital era.

“IBM has historically not been the easiest company to buy from,” says IDC analyst Bob Parker.

IBM had long relied on augmenting sales around its numerous hardware and software products with services. For years, CIOs joked (or complained) about IBM backing up a Brink’s truck to a customer’s headquarters, unloading its consultants, and sending a multimillion-dollar invoice, leaving IT leaders wondering what they paid for.

But, as Parker notes, companies have embraced the seismic shift away from hardware and software hosted on-premises to software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscriptions, as well as infrastructure as a service (IaaS), in which compute power is purchased as a utility over the internet. By its own admission, IBM was slow to embrace these shifts and suffered years of sluggish sales, as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Google, Salesforce.com, and several other vendors of cloud services raced ahead.

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