I’ve decided to write some notes about the partnership signed between Apple and IBM only after a few days after the announcement because I wanted to think things over.
Being an eternal pessimistic, I am going to analyze the factors that could mar this agreement.
The partnership between the two companies is specifically targeted to enterprise customers, which is the bread and butter of IBM but a completely new game for Apple.
Almost all opinions that you can read on the Internet are extremely optimistic about the outcome of this partnership. Certainly the alliance has incredible potential. With no apparent business overlap between the two companies, the partnership seems perfect. On paper.
What could really endanger this partnership?
Partnerships between companies happen all the time, without the fanfare that the Apple-IBM has had. It’s actually a given in the IT industry that companies put their salesforce together to leverage their respective strengths. The reason behind this type of close cooperation is to drive revenue in sectors where one of the two companies is weak, or more often to create sales synergies that could not exist otherwise.
It is also common for partnerships to fail without too much drama. Breakups occur because priorities change, companies’ agenda changes, or simply because there is a culture clash.
The success of partnerships between companies depends on:
- Business overlap
- Willingness to share information
- Definition of roles
- Clear and measurable objectives
- Cultural similarities
There are other factors at stake, but for the purpose of this post the six points above suffice. Let me talk about the three points that could endanger this partnership.
Willingness to share information
This is in my opinion what could really make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful partnership. More often than not, these marriages are burdened with opinions half-said, roadmaps not entirely shared, APIs not fully documented, developers and managers unable to create a good working relationship with their counterparts, and so on. In fact, the latter
the human factor is always present and it’s a huge factor too.
On top of that you have the challenge on how to share that information. What processes the two companies are going to use to exchange information? Will they be efficient? Will they be accepted by all parties or some mid-level manager is going to sabotage them? Will the decision makers get that information before going down a certain path?
Priorities and definition of roles
I smirked when I saw the comments relative to the AppleCare Enterprise Support provided by Apple and the on-site service provided by IBM.
All great in theory, but who’s going to decide when telephone support is not enough and you need to send an IBM consultant to visit the customer? Who’s going to foot the bill? Who’s going to get irritated by the too many requests for on-site service? What happens when one of the two companies start to push back on the requests?
IBM is well known in the corporate world for being a suit-and-tie type of company. Will this work well with the T-shirt and jeans culture of Apple?
Of course Apple is more corporate than its cool image might suggest but the devil is in the details, and certain differences in development strategies, project plans, requirement definitions, meeting styles could really have an effect on how the partnership works.
I’m convinced that this partnership is going to hugely benefit both Apple and IBM, but as I described in this post some points of failure exist. The executives of both companies will have to put aside their prejudice when solving the inevitable problems in order to make this marriage work.