Shaped by partner-to-partner focus, VMware enhances ecosystem play

New customer lifecycle incentives span partner-to-partner accelerator, technical assessment and proof of concept initiatives
Uma Thana Balasingam (VMware)

Uma Thana Balasingam (VMware)

VMware has rolled out a new accelerator incentive offering in a first step towards building a programmatic framework for strategic partner-to-partner collaboration, acknowledging a sharp rise in ecosystem alliances across the channel.

Representing a progression of Partner Connect - an initiative first launched in March 2020 - the move is designed to reward “sell through” partners who identify opportunities and book eligible orders before handing off to “orchestrate with” partners to activate the solution and facilitate consumption of the vendor's core services.

Effective immediately, the aim is to allows customers to purchase through preferred resellers while receiving services from specialised “services only best of breed” providers.

According to Uma Thana Balasingam - vice president of Partner and Commercial Organisation across Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) at VMware - 30 per cent of projects delivered for customers globally are currently deployed by more than one partner, emphasising a significant shift in channel approach.

“We have a scenario in Australia in which we have up to six partners helping one particular customer,” added Balasingam, when speaking to Channel Asia. “We have partners across business consulting, technology consulting, architect and design, in addition to implementation, services and migration. We also have partners running day two onwards, focused around operational management and optimisation.”

Such a scenario continues to play out across all markets in Asia Pacific, heralding the rise of a broad and diverse group of companies which now engage, influence, recommend, resell and implement technology to end-users.

“A traditional infrastructure partner attempted to dramatically shift to a services-led model during the past two years and increase focus on customer success,” Balasingam outlined. “Specific to application modernisation - which continues to be a leading investment priority for customers - they are not looking to build that capability in-house, rather partner with an ISV [independent software vendor]."

The shift in focus for VMware - armed with the benefit of post-pandemic hindsight - also signals a transition away from traditional channel labels, the age-old definitions that continue to dominate vendor strategies.

Whether it be value-added reseller, managed service provider or system integrator, perhaps ISV, born-in-the-cloud specialist or consultancy house - the ecosystem has forever been defined by lines of demarcation.

Yet as new technologies take centre stage, driven by new customer buyers, the boundaries segregating partners are blurring. Instead, an ecosystem is emerging more reflective of the contemporary channel, a channel in which labels are looser and lacking in definition.

“We’ve spent the past 12 months talking to partners and we see this as a major shift in helping the channel become more profitable while adapting to new ways of working and market changes,” Balasingam added. “The way partners engage with customers and other partners has also evolved - in that context we have previously placed partners into specific boxes depending on the role they played. We’re now opening up the entire lifecycle to partners should they decide to participate.”

Enhancing customer lifecycle capabilities

The partner-to-partner enhancements form part of a wider round of customer lifecycle incentives, shaped by a desire to help technology providers facilitate “end-to-end digital transformation” projects for customers.

Other key features include technical assessment acknowledgement to recognise partner value when assessing a customer’s environment, rewarding those recommending VMware solutions to solve end-user challenges. For example, this could include delivering recommendations on applications, optimising server workload or virtualisation usage, alongside suggesting applications that could be modernised or creating a migration readiness and implementation plan.

Furthermore, the proof of concept incentive will reward VMware partners that deliver proof of concepts through a worksho or use-case implementation, demonstration and evaluation techniques - open to both transacting and non-transacting partners.

“At VMware, we are committed to continuously evolving our partner program to adapt to industry demands and customer expectations,” said Tracy-Ann Palmer, vice president of Partner Programs and Experience at VMware.

“Customer lifecycle incentives is the result of extensive collaboration with our partners to define and build incentives that matter to them. We are giving our partners more support and tools to differentiate and transform their business and VMware practices.”

As reported by Channel Asia, VMware entered a new phase of partnering in March 2020 through the launch of a Partner Connect program grounded in technical expertise, dictated by customer priorities and challenging of traditional channel practices.

Billed by many as the most fundamental ecosystem overhaul in the vendor’s 21-year existence, Partner Connect - first revealed to the market in April 2019 - is a go-to-market strategy which continues to suggest a shift in mindset for a technology giant built on the foundations of virtualisation.

Central to such changes were an increased focus on technical and services specialisation, backed up by integrations with recently acquired businesses Carbon BlackVeloCloud and Pivotal.

Furthermore, Partner Connect was a message to the vendor’s traditional base of partners that change is on the horizon, alongside an opening of the door to a newer breed of provider nestled in the world of cloud - the global distribution review is now expected to complement such a go-to-market overhaul.

Most recently, and as the channel continues to grapple with the economic impact and uncertainty of Covid-19 - hampered further by fluctuating investment priorities - forward-thinking VMware partners have been up-skilling in preparation for heightened customer demand across Asia Pacific.

Representing a silver lining amid months of industry pain, the ecosystem is now armed with competencies and certifications, ready and waiting as businesses battle back from the brink to restart transformation plans.

To address such a shift in market dynamics, 75 per cent of VMware partners across the region are “planning or considering” increasing staff training in relation to technology skills during the next six months, with 41 per cent already pursuing additional certifications.

According to recent VMware findings - profiling 410 partners across 22 countries in Asia Pacific, delivered via Tech Research Asia - more than two-thirds of technology providers are increasing focus on the vendor’s hybrid, multi-cloud and end-user computing solutions, supported by increased training investment.