Channel programs News

CRN Exclusive: Global Knowledge Hires Channel Chief, Launches Massive Partner Offensive

Michael Novinson

Business training and certification provider Global Knowledge plans to triple its channel revenue within the next three years by engaging more deeply with large, multinational resellers.

The Cary, N.C. company has hired former Hewlett Packard Enterprise executive Aaron Mills as its vice president of channel sales to lead the indirect revenue charge. Mills told CRN exclusively that, in addition to growing channel revenues, he also wants to make the channel responsible for a larger percentage of the company's overall sales. The channel accounts for 15 percent of Global Knowledge's revenue today and Mills wants the channel to make up 45 percent of the company's sales within two or three years' time.

"The channel has historically been a very modest part of the strategy and resource commitment and the investments the company has made," Mills said. "I wanted to do something that was progressive and forward-looking in terms of the ways the industry was changing."

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But Mills plans to change that with a new training credits program and strong deal protection and registration provisions, which he hopes will appeal to larger solution providers that work with Fortune 1000-type companies. Although Global Knowledge is the largest player in the IT training market, Mills said the company commands just single-digit market share in the $10 billion sector.

"It's an incredibly fragmented market," Mills said. "The vendors and OEMS are increasingly dependent on the channel to go and provide the support for companies moving forward."

Most of Global Knowledge's business today is conducted between the company's direct sales force and Fortune 500 companies or federal government agencies, Mills said. Global Knowledge hopes to capture more new business, and upper mid-market enterprises since the company's large, group instruction environment and digital delivery models also work well for sub-Fortune 500 firms.

All told, Mills said Global Knowledge hopes to grow its community of channel partners from 178 today to more than 250 in the future. Prior to joining Global Knowledge, Mills spent more than 14 years in HPE's sales organization, culminating in a role leading servers, storage, networking and services sales in the United States, Canada and Latin America.

The world of IT training appealed to Mills due to the confluence of organizations reducing their commitment to in-house IT training and rapid changes in the cloud, security, and software-defined data center spaces. Mills said his mission is to make Global Knowledge the most visible, channel-friendly organization in the IT training ecosystem.

"I think that knowledge development and skillset enhancement is going to be an empowering and enabling part of the enterprise," Mills said.

In the long-term, Mills said that means Global Knowledge needs to mirror the route to market of its large OEM partners such as Cisco, Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard, Lenovo and Microsoft. Mills said that will help avoid situations where, for instance, an end user buys a Microsoft solution from a channel partner, but then purchases training related to that solution directly from Global Knowledge.

Global Knowledge will not be putting a hard deck in place, Mills said, meaning that channel partners can compete for even the very largest of accounts. Global Knowledge's direct sales force has an internal teaming agreement in place with the company's channel, Mills said, meaning that the company's direct sales reps get half the commission and full quota credit on each deal carried out by channel partners.

The company's new Global Training Credits (GTC) program, however, will only be available through the channel and will provide Global Knowledge's direct sales reps with full quota credits and commission on deals completed by channel partners.

Under the GTC program, Mills said end users can pay upfront for a large batch of training credits and consume them over time in a variety of different technology and category areas. The program is intended to make it easier for end users to consume large quantities of Global Knowledge material since they don't have to decide on a specific course and time before making a purchase.

Meanwhile, Mills said implementing deal registration should help protect resellers by avoiding a wide-open environment that would hinder their ability to upsell or craft their own margin experience.

Although Global Knowledge competes against other IT training providers such as Learning Tree, Fast Lane, Skyline and New Horizons, Mills said Global Knowledge is able to differentiate itself through a much larger course catalog that goes deeper with a broader selection of vendors. Additionally, Mills said Global Knowledge trainings can be consumed anywhere in the world, not just in the United States.

"Global Knowledge, far and away, has the most breadth and heterogeneous mixes of courses anywhere," Mills said.

World Wide Technology (WWT) has its own training catalog, but requires a minimum number of students and can only deliver the curriculum in person, said Stefanie Coburn, WWT's senior manager of field marketing and learning.

The Maryland Heights, Mo.-based company, No. 12 on the CRN Solution Provider 500, uses Global Knowledge when an end user is training just one or two of their employees or when the customer prefers the lower cost associated with remote, virtual training, Coburn said.

Presidio, meanwhile, uses Global Knowledge's Cisco, EMC and VMware curriculum to train its own salesforce and resells the courses to end users, according to Randy Olsson, Presidio's vice president of the strategic technology group, networking and security. The New York-based company, No. 22 on the CRN SP 500, doesn't offer certification-type training from its internal staff, Olsson said.

Insight Enterprises believes that Global Knowledge's new GTC program will give customers more flexibility to consume courses over time, according to David Mayer, vice president of product management and software.

The previous selling model requires end users to bid out a small portion of the overall budget for individual training courses, Mayer said, which often aligned poorly with how clients prefer to budget. Mayer said the GTC model will also enable Tempe, Ariz.-based Insight, No. 15 on the CRN SP 500, to move away from a project-based approach and engage with clients in more long-term strategic thinking.

"They're making the right investment," Mayer said. "We're bullish on where they're at and where they're going."

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