Since taking up VMware’s channel reins from the vendor’s former global channel chief Jenni Flinders after she departed earlier this year, new channel lead Sandy Hogan has spent a lot of time on video calls getting to know the company’s partners virtually.
In fact, not being able to meet with partners in person amid a pandemic-hit market may have actually sped up the process of getting to know the VMware partner ecosystem, with meetings that might otherwise have involved serious travel time were just the touch of a button away.
“The virtual world that we’re in, what it has really allowed me to do...is spend as much time with partners [as I can],” Hogan told ARN. “So, I’ve been meeting with partners every day since I started.”
As VMware senior vice president of worldwide commercial and partner sales, Hogan has no doubt been all ears, taking note of partners’ thoughts and feedback regarding the vendor’s channel approach and strategy, and what they want out of their partnership with VMware today and into the future.
A few items have stood out, according to Hogan.
“What I’ve captured are really five major themes that have led us to also create...a number of imperatives,” she said. “The first is predictability.
“Our partners very much want to have a predictable way they can determine their investments and have a clear understanding of...not just our company vision and our technology vision, but our partner vision. And so, they can make those sound decisions on where and how they invest.
“Second, and this is obvious — profitability. I would also say that not just profitability at a transactional level. I would heighten it to profitability at a relationship level, especially as we move into new areas, whether it be new technologies or new business models.
“There are always trade-off decisions, and so as they continue to invest in VMware, how do we think about the way that we improve and drive profitability differently?” Hogan said.
The third theme, according to Hogan, is protection and having very clear established engagement paths and rules of engagement, so partners know that when they make investments in VMware, there are clear expected outcomes and support that comes from that.
“And the last two include process — driving automation and simplicity in all of our systems and tools. We started down that path when Partner Connect was launched at the end of February, before I joined,” Hogan said. “This is about ensuring that at every level of the engagement there is simplicity.
“The last is what I would call preparedness. The incredible amount of knowledge that our partners want to have, how they want to be enabled, and not just about our technology capabilities, but preparedness...for moving into the software-as-a-service (SaaS) space, delivering more services, capabilities, building unique IP [intellectual property].
“In every partner meeting that I have been in, every partner is evaluating how they're evolving their business model. That type of preparedness, I think, is a critical success factor based on all of those discussions,” she added.
Scaling for life
As such, the “mission” that Hogan and the VMware channel team has created — at least in its next phase — is mostly about what the company is referring to as ‘scaling customers for life through a connected ecosystem’.
Within this mission are a number of strategic imperatives, not least of which include the areas of multi- and hybrid-cloud infrastructure.
“[Analyst firm] Gartner states that 75 per cent of mid- and large-sized businesses will have a multi-cloud or hybrid-cloud strategy in the next year,” Hogan said,
“And so, when you think about the magnitude of that, the role and the opportunity for partners to lead our customers through that transformation...their ability to have consulting services, unique types of professional services, managed services, adoption services, there's a whole new array of capabilities that partners need to invest in.”
This factor, combined with a ‘customer for life’ mentality, from Hogan’s perspective, should really be a way of doing business going forward.
While Hogan has picked up, and is running with, the vendor’s Partner Connect program — integrating the partner programs of its Velocloud offering and those of its more recent acquisitions, Carbon Black and Pivotal, into a single, simplified program — she is bringing her own touch to the company’s partner strategy as well.
Having held senior leadership roles with the likes of Rackspace and Cisco prior to joining VMware, Hogan has no small amount of experience and precedent to draw upon.
“What I am trying to do is take some of the best practices and learnings, one being the customer-first orientation and the ‘customer for life’ approach, where we have to align to customers’ business objectives and deliver outcomes,” Hogan said. “That's been a passionate point of mine from Cisco since 2005.”
“With a lot of the roles that I've had, and with the pandemic, with moving from...legacy infrastructure to a multi- or hybrid-cloud world, it is putting a spotlight on an outcomes orientation,” she said.
Software-as-a-service cannot be successful if you are not delivering customer value, according to Hogan. And this is the aspect of the partner model that Hogan, through VMware, wants to bring to bear.
At the same time, a big area of focus for VMware under Hogan’s leadership is something she refers to as “aligning to the value continuum”.
“Most of our incentive, most of our resourcing in the past until just recently, has been centered on the transaction and the resell” Hogan said. “And so the value continuum is shifting — our incentives, our alignment, our enablement — to more of the pre-sales and the post-sales nurturing of the customer driving adoption, driving consumption.
“I think that's a big shift for us. And a huge, huge opportunity. I think that's where we're all navigating in this world together on that,” she added.
Looking forward, as VMware evolves its partner model, Hogan said she would like everything about the vendor’s premise to be about how it can help to “unleash” all of its partners’ capabilities.
In nuts-and-bolts terms, this means creating a connected ecosystem in a way that enables its partners to play any role that plays in their respective sweet spots and areas that are core to their business, while enabling them to be successful in the future world.
For some partners, Hogan conceded, there is always value to the transaction, or value to the consulting play, just as there is for all different types of services and offerings. The point, from Hogan’s point of view, is that VMware is there to support the partner to make the most of what it can offer.
“I think it's really hard to bucketise partners in this next iteration,” she said. “And by unleashing those capabilities, how do we enable partners to play multiple roles? That power of choice to deliver value, I think, is an important element of it.”
Regardless of the primary areas of focus within a partner, VMware wants to be the digital foundation for its customers, and enable “any app on any cloud on any device” — as the company’s latest tagline states — helping partners to deliver this in a multi- and hybrid-cloud world.
“Customers want solutions that are going to be simpler to deploy,” Hogan said. “It’s hard to have the talent in-house, it's hard to get faster to value.
“So, I think that the faster that partners can adopt this digital foundation capability, they will be able to not only capture mindshare with the customer early on, but also the wallet share,” she said.