Why VMware made a channel chief out of its marketing superstar

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Why VMware made a channel chief out of its marketing superstar
Olga Specjalska (VMware)

Software and virtualisation powerhouse VMware is forging new ground with the appointment of Olga Specjalska as its new channel chief, as it moves away from a sales-lead approach to managing local partners.

Specjalska moved into the role vacated by Neels Du Plooy after he left the company in February to lead the Citrix local channel.

An experienced marketer with more than 10 years at the vendor, Specjalska was chosen specifically for her branding credentials and deep knowledge of the company’s portfolio.

“It was deliberate,” VMware’s ANZ MD Brad Anderson told CRN. “Having someone that knows the business intimately, has been with the business a long time and has grown up with the phases of the business as we transformed is critical.

“Being able to wear multiple hats and supporting partners as they drive different programs as they evolve, that’s tough."

Critical for the role, according to Anderson, is the ability to market differently and bring in vendor expertise to solve customer challenges.

He said that Specjalska’s experience and deep knowledge of VMware’s product stack were key factors in her appointment.

“The ability to be agile and transform, that’s a rare talent,” he added.

The appointment forms part of a broader strategy from a company traditionally the market leader in virtualisation, which now looks to increase uptake of its cloud-based offerings.

“Simplicity and choice are top of mind, recognising that our ecosystem includes a lot of diverse partners,” Specjalska told CRN.

“We're hearing and seeing, from our customers and partners, a desire to do more of the same really, and that's to remain the digital transformation leader or the business strategist.

“[They want to be] the partner that comes in and helps customers on their journey. “

The company has gone through a significant amount of technological change, Anderson said, from the days of its ‘any cloud’ strategy to software defined networking and the software defined data centre. Now, the company is in act three as Anderson describes it, the push for public cloud.

“The 'any, any, any' play exists and has existed for some time,'' he said. “What we've tried to do in recent times is simplify the acquisitions and the huge investments we've had in our technology.

For her part, Specjalska said she had always been “following the opportunity to be part of a transformation and to contribute to unique transformations that we've gone through over the years that would help us grow the business.

“I like the new opportunities and new challenges and I do feel that right now the partner business is such an important part of that.

“We have a loyal group of partners that have been with us on this journey since we started and that will continue, definitely. At the same time, we are evolving our partner program to also recognise the different roles of the partners to drive our customer’s objectives and deliver value.

“We do have partnerships that are new and partners that we are bringing on board," she said when asked about partner recruitment.

"Recognising those different roles we’ve been seeing more and more as our customer's journeys evolve [is important]. There’s been an acceleration of business transformation with partners themselves also exploring new business models.

“We also see partners partnering with other partners. So what's important to us is to make sure that our partner program is supporting all the different partners that we work with, in delivering on customers objectives."

This strategy builds on the vendor’s revamped partner program which was launched in February of 2020. Earlier this year, VMware launched a new incentives program, which Specjalska said were designed to recognise the changing role of the partners, and to reward them for the value that they deliver.

In February, the company also announced a distribution shakeup when it replaced Tech Data with Dicker Data. 

“There are different groups of partners that we are looking at and putting into the forefront of our strategy," Specjalska said. 

To achieve this, VMware spun up a new team within the partner business focused on services led partnerships, lead by Anthony Clark who came from the company’s Tanzu business.

“He's right now working very closely with the likes of Accenture and Deloitte and other services partners, recognising the important role that they play in our customers' digital transformation plans and journeys, also to the multi cloud space,” Specjalska said.

She added that the vendor had also onboarded a number of cloud specialist partners providing multi cloud services around the hyper-scale offerings from Google, Microsoft and AWS.

“Definitely the landscape of our partnerships is evolving just as our business and our customers are evolving.”

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