IBM Preps Social Network to Boost Partners' Business

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IBM will launch this month a social-networking site for its 100,000 partners worldwide to let them exchange ideas, showcase their expertise and market focus, share best practices and collaborate on deals.

The site, called PartnerWorld Communities, will let partners create home pages and profiles, publish blogs, participate in discussion forums, collaborate with wikis, share Web-site links and subscribe to syndicated feeds.

"We thought it would be appropriate at this time to provide a social-networking capability for our partners, to help them be more effective and productive," said Rich Hume, general manager of IBM's Global Business Partners program, in an interview.

IBM decided to create PartnerWorld Communities, which is based on IBM's Lotus Connections product, after a survey of partners revealed a high interest in such a site, the company said Tuesday.

The site will be a complement to IBM's global PartnerWorld program.

IBM is also releasing a new online training forum called the Business Partner Development Series featuring more than 60 free, virtual classes, webcasts and listings of in-person events, like seminars.

IBM announced PartnerWorld Communities and the Business Partner Development Series during a webcast Tuesday morning that took place in lieu of the company's annual partner conference.

IBM didn't hold the conference, usually a two-and-a-half day event, after deciding with partners that the expense wasn't appropriate in this economic climate, Hume said.

Nonetheless, IBM will spend about US$2.5 billion in the coming year in investments and initiatives related to its partners, which in turn generate about 30 percent of the company's revenue.

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