IBM extends ISV program to vertical markets

IBM continues its push into the SMB sector with an extended ISV program that now includes solutions for vertical markets such as healthcare and manufacturing.

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IBM announced Tuesday an expansion of its ISV Advantage initiative to include small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in vertical markets such as retail, financial services, health care and manufacturing.

More than 70 independent software vendors (ISVs) have joined ISV Advantage, including numerous Microsoft developers who are converting to Big Blue technology, IBM said.

IBM announced in April the ISV Advantage initiative, a program designed to provide midmarket ISVs, including those serving the iSeries space, with technical and marketing support to help meet the specific needs of SMB customers.

This announcement furthers that strategy to support SMB customers across 18 vertical industries, said Leslie Givens, director of developer relations marketing at IBM.

Givens said that, within the past six months, IBM has seen very positive growth in the SMB space as a result of its collaboration with ISVs. IBM's penetration into the SMB space is due in large part to its partner programs. Since the program's inception in April, IBM has signed on 70-plus partners. Now, according to Givens, the company is ready to move to the next phase.

"We've recognized the need that the vertical markets require," Givens said. "We really do have to tailor applications, such as providing HIPAA support for health care software. [This initiative] is also getting to a level of focus that's helping our partners."

In the past year, Big Blue has invested $500 million to develop relationships with business partners and ISVs and brought to market dozens of products, including a broad line of Express products as well as financial incentives, all with the intention of luring SMBs into the IBM fold.

Critics of this push into the SMB space say that what's been lacking in IBM's strategy is that it's not focused enough in vertical markets.

In a previous interview, Wayne Kernochan, an analyst with the Aberdeen Group in Boston, said that, while IBM has the right intentions, he doubted its current SMB strategy. He said it will be IBM's ability to offer vertical applications that will help it penetrate the SMB space.

"People sometimes say IBM doesn't move fast enough, though IBM's approach has been strategic and aggressive, but in a really thoughtful way. What IBM has done is put together a strategy that will support our partners and customers," Givens said.

As part of the ISV Advantage initiative, ISVs work with IBM to port their applications to IBM's open infrastructure, with a special focus on IBM WebSphere Express and IBM DB2 Express running on Linux.

A number of ISVs recently signed on with IBM's ISV Advantage program, including Logo Business Solutions (LBS), a top Microsoft distributor in Turkey; Deerfield, Ill.-based Friedman Corp., a CRM software developer for the manufacturing market; U.K.-based Strategix, which develops supply chain software for the wholesale and retail distribution, logistics and service sectors; and CRM software provider Onyx Software Corp.

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Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Kate Evans-Correia, Senior News Editor.

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