Why IBM is investing millions in developer programs

Developers are key influencers in a business’ adoption of technology. So IBM has launched many programs for developers and is making significant investments to educate developers about its technology and services

Developers are highly revered these days, as they are becoming more responsible in charting out the IT blueprint for organisations. They influence key technology decisions about platforms, technologies and tools. IT behemoths like IBM, AWS, Google, Apple and Microsoft are making every effort to offer developers the tools, frameworks, platforms, training and support they need to develop models and applications. They also work closely with startups, ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) and SIs (System Integrators). But IBM is taking this to a higher level, with its Call for Code global initiative. It has three approaches: Code, Content and Community. Basically, it is offering developers code patterns, tech talks, open source projects, developer advocates, dynamic communities, and access to events.

IBM has for long been working with the developer community, made significant investments ($30 million over five years for its Call for Code initiative), and launched various programs for developers.

Seema Kumar, ‎Country Leader, Developer Ecosystem & Startups, IBM India/South Asia
Seema Kumar, ‎Country Leader, Developer Ecosystem & Startups, IBM India/South Asia

“We work with developers as individuals across multiple organisations,” said Seema Kumar, ‎Country Leader, Developer Ecosystem & Startups, IBM India/South Asia. “Developers are increasingly wielding more influence in terms of core technology choices, core decisions in terms of what cloud or programming language to use, or what platforms to use. They are an important stakeholder as we look at technology adoption at large.”

Kumar informs us that IBM has developer specific programs such as technical developer advocacy and client developer advocacy. It also has entrepreneurship and technology adoption programs, wherein it works closely with startups and ISVs.

“Across all of them the common thread is infusing next generation technology around cloud native, AI, machine learning, data science, blockchain, IoT etc. We call it the IBM developer way,” said Kumar.

Code patterns

IBM is trying to accelerate development by providing developers the nuts and bolts — over 100 reusable code patterns that are freely available here.  They can take a piece of code and quickly customise it, thereby reducing development time. In addition, it encourages developers to join the IBM code program.

“We have built assets, reusable code patterns, how-to articles, Bot Asset Exchanges, and open projects that help developers get started. These are all written by developers for developers,” said Kumar.

A developer trying to build a machine learning model or build a blockchain based network for a business, will find relevant code for it in the code pattern catalog on the IBM Code site; and it is all open source code.

“Since last year, we put in a lot of work to build out a very strong catalog of over 100 code patterns across various technology categories and usage categories. We are seeing this being adopted and embraced by developers across communities in an effective fashion,” said Kumar.

Community Engagement

IBM developer advocates also engage with various open source communities, dynamic communities, interest groups, meetup groups, and coding consortiums. For instance, there are 20 meetups every weekend in Bengaluru itself.  Ideas are exchanged and shared across these groups.

Apart from that, IBM works very closely with its large enterprise customers, SIs and ISVs.

“We want to make them aware of what IBM has to offer and how they can build their business applications faster and more efficiently. We follow the one-to-one approach where we work closely with the client or a customer to activate their developers,” informed Kumar.

Of particular interest are the new-age ISVs within India that focus on technologies such as AI, blockchain etc.

“We see a breed of new age companies who are leading with technology. They are leveraging the technology to differentiate their solutions in the context of a business problem. It’s important for us to partner with these new-age ISVs to ensure we are having the right partners in the ecosystem who can service our large customers as well,” said Kumar.

Call for Code

IBM wants to take its developer programs and aspiration beyond business – to solve global challenges. It launched the Call for Code initiative in April this year. Its goal is to unite the world’s developers and tap into data and AI, blockchain, cloud and IoT technologies to address social challenges.

This is an ambitious effort by IBM and its partners to bring startup, academic and enterprise developers together to solve one of the most pressing societal issues of our time, which is preventing, responding to and recovering from natural disasters.

Call for Code invites global developers to contribute their skills and time towards building applications that help communities and people better prepare for natural disasters. They could create apps to improve communications during natural disasters – or to improve the distribution of medicines and essential supplies. Developers could also create apps that predict when and where a disaster might occur.

IBM is committing technology and $30 million over five years in the annual Call for Code Global Initiative.

Kumar informs us that IBM could launch similar developer initiatives in future, and work with dynamic communities to solve other global challenges.

Entrepreneurship and technology adoption programs

Startups also form an important part of IBM’s developer outreach programs. And IBM offers support and credits to the startup community. Although it does not run its own internal accelerator program, it works closely with established accelerators and ecosystem partners.

“We work with them in multiple ways and give them access to the technology, in terms of credits on the cloud. For instance, we support a particular startup through our global entrepreneur program, where they get cloud credits. They don’t need to pay for the technology in the first year. We also support them in terms of scaling it up and introducing them to relevant customers. Sometimes, we also position them in our IBM marketplace from a go-to-market standpoint. So we also help them scale up once they have built the solution,” informed Kumar.

IBM also works with ecosystem partners such as accelerators and incubation centres, to ensure that the startups they are incubating and accelerating are aware of what IBM has to offer.  For instance, it works closely with Nasscom 10,000 startups.

“We have an online, self-service program. It is not a physical accelerator. It is a digital self-service model where we offer early-stage startups and mature startups access to our technology, technical help, technical specialists, to mentoring as well as access to a very large enterprise customer base. This is especially in the case of B2B startups,” said Kumar.

Over the years more than 1,200 startups joined the program in various stages.


Brian Pereira

Brian Pereira is an Indian journalist and editor based in Mumbai. He is the Founding Editor of Digital Creed, which he founded in 2015. A technology buff, former computer instructor, and software developer, Brian has 28 years of journalism experience (since 1994). He is sound and confident about his knowledge of business technology concepts. And he is a believer in continual education/learning. Brian is the former Editor of CHIP and InformationWeek magazines (India). He has written hundreds of technology articles for India's leading newspaper groups such as The Times of India and Indian Express Newspapers (among others). And he has conducted more than 300 industry interviews during his journalism career. Brian also writes on Aviation, cybersecurity, startups, and topics directed at small and medium businesses. He achieved certifications from the EC-Council (Certified Secure Computer User) and from IBM (Basics of Cloud Computing). Apart from those, he has successfully completed many courses on Content Marketing and Business Writing. Follow Brian on Twitter (@creed_digital) and LinkedIn. Email Brian at: [email protected]

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