VMware is dramatically changing the way it engages with its partners as it strives to be known as much more than a virtualisation powerhouse.
The company has rolled out a swathe of new partner initiatives including new customer lifecycle incentives which, its VP of partner initiatives Tracy-Ann Palmer said, were designed to reward partners as their customers increase overall consumption of the vendor’s products.
“In a SaaS subscription world, there is no such thing as a renewal, there is a relationship with the customer and it's about consumption and adoption,” she told CRN.
This strategy has two main outcomes, according to Palmer – to increase usage of VMware products amongst existing partners, particularly in its multi cloud solutions offerings, but also to entice new partners into the fold.
Palmer added that VMware partners have “unique business models” and that the vendor had increased its focus on connecting partners with specific specialisations to work jointly on deployments.
“So our goal is to harness the capability. If a partner is doing managed services, or they're doing advisory services, it's to make sure that they're working together with those transaction partners, to make sure we're not losing that continuum,” she said.
VMware’s global channel chief Sandy Hogan added that the policy was to ensure partners did not feel the need to be all things and could focus on the unique investments they've made in capabilities.
“But still, even when you're thinking about modern applications, cloud infrastructure... Multi cloud is now so complex for customers to make decisions on which application to deploy on which cloud.
“It really enables a way for partners to come together to solve customer business problems without necessarily having to work in the same organisation.”
At a local level, VMware’s ANZ channel chief Olga Specjalska said the referral policy would be guided primarily by the partners.
“We also recognise the partnerships that already exist in the market,” she said.
“We have partners who specialise in different skills, we also recognise that the product, the proximity, and the intimacy of our partners with the customers, is incredibly important on those very customised journeys.
“And this is how we are going to incentivise and reward partners working together in serving our joint customers.”
Hogan was quick to stress that this was not a forcing function for partners.
“Partners are already organically doing this, we see this quite a bit and this fed into the feedback for us to create this program," she said.
“It's amazing the kind of network that's already been built around the partners. We want to educate as much as we can partner capability, it's ultimately down to the customer and the partners to select that because they are the ones who have to work together to deliver the solution. So we want to be careful to not go too far one way, recommending one partner over another.”
Moving up the stack
For new partners, the company has had training and certifications for some time like many others, but Palmer described VMware’s approach as “a pretty sophisticated model”.
Dubbed Ignite, the practice development and access activation model is open to all VMware partners.
“We have milestones where we are helping our partners reach certain capabilities, we have our master services competencies across our portfolio,” Palmer explained.
“As they go through our Ignite practice development, and they reach those milestones, we actually incentivise them. It's typically a 12-month process and when they get to the end, we have fully paid for the capabilities that they have invested in.
“We are extending [the program] later this year as well to offer more in terms of those capabilities.
“We've got a pretty significant ROI. It's an 18 to one ROI right now on our practice development.”
One of the major changes at a technology level is the ability to build a cloud application once with VMware and deploy it to any public cloud, private cloud, sovereign cloud or edge infrastructure.
With this in mind, the incentives become much more important for VMware and its partner ecosystem. The specialisations and training initiatives are designed to get partners to move up the stack in terms of competencies and increase the customer usage of the various VMware products along the way.
“Taking the steps is important because this whole multi cloud journey is modular,” Hogan said.
“There's no one way, every customer is at a different stage and I think that's what our partners face as well, there's no one way to do it and so the uniqueness of that requires a level of knowledge and capability for VMware for our partners together to be able to help the customer navigate based on where they are in their journey and not force them into a certain into a certain path.”
Customers and the pace of change
Hogan also acknowledged the increasing savviness of customers relating to technology as a whole and said that for VMware, this would only benefit all concerned.
“What we see is a pretty fast evolution around more use case based solutions that are more integrated, that solve key business problems versus just the technology itself.
“So we have piloted some of what we would call co-innovation concepts with partners. So we have piloted solution labs, where it's a formal process of identifying unique opportunities to develop certain use cases. And what comes out of that is a joint solution, a partner decides to create a managed service, they decided to create a new services capability, whatever it may be, but that's also a unique way that we're taking some of our top partners to expand their capabilities even further, enhancing the co-innovation that we're doing with them.
Change management in the customer organisation is key to this approach and Hogan said that while VMware does not have a specific competency for change management, as is the case with Microsoft and others, the process was in a sense baked into its existing competencies.
“It's building in all of those aspects versus just training on the technology itself,” she said.
For the local market, Specjalska said this would manifest in recognising the different roles partners play.
“I do believe that some of the partners, when you look at some of our advisory and consulting partners, they have a role to play there as well and that would be their expertise and the value that they bring to their customers.
“It goes back to customer lifecycle journey and meeting customers where they are at, understanding what is it that they need currently on the journey to getting to the outcomes – that's what they are after, the business outcomes – and then looking at which partners play which role in that journey and how we all work together as an ecosystem to deliver to our customer needs.”