Rackspace's Channel Chief McLin On Datapipe Deal, Helping Partners Make The Cloud Transition Through Fanatical Channel Support

Only 10 weeks into her job, Rackspace's newly appointed channel chief, Lisa McLin, is already helping partners translate what cloud transformation means for their business customers.

The combination of Rackspace's support and solution provider expertise was already marrying very well for end customers, but McLin wants to take that support to the next level and make the partner program easier to navigate for channel partners. Cloud needs to make sense for business customers, and not be just another obstacle for partners and their clients, she said.

"If we want to spread Fanatical support as a service within the cloud space, the best way to do that is through partners," McLin told CRN. "Partners know they have to make the transition because they know it will grow their portfolio, it's just where to start?"

[Related: Rackspace To Acquire Datapipe In A Blockbuster Deal For Global Cloud Services]

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Rackspace's channel community today consists of systems integrators, distributors, master agents and VARs. The goal now is to "get specific" with partners that can add value and with which Rackspace can add value to as well, McLin said.

"Not every partner is going to be a great fit," she said. "We are going to focus on the partners we resonate with. We want to drive additional revenue through partners and then spread support to new markets we aren't in."

Scottsdale, Ariz.-based master agent PlanetOne Communications, one of Rackspace's top-performing partners, is looking forward to continuing its growth with Rackspace with McLin at the helm.

PlanetOne shares Rackspace’s passion for partner and customer support and operational excellence, said Lauren Shapiro, president of PlanetOne Communications.

"[McLin] came into this new role with proven leadership skills and a ton of hands-on experience in cloud sales, support and customer service," she said. "We’re excited to work with her and find more ways to engage with the MSP and agent communities.’

Right now, McLin is working on a partner relationship portal that is letting partners work with Rackspace more efficiently, she said.

"The ability to help partners make that transition from the services they are offering today, like telecom, to getting comfortable selling cloud is important," she said. "I want partners to know that it can be taught."

Understanding a customer's business problems is a good starting point for partners interested in closing more cloud sales, McLin said.

"Asking what the problem is that needs solving, and how an application can improve [that customer's] business -- once partners get those core questions down, they can pull us in."

In September, Rackspace said it would acquire Jersey City, N.J.-based managed services provider Datapipe to create a managed services giant with a global data center footprint.

The deal will prove positive for Rackspace partners, McLin said, especially for those who have been asking for a West Coast-based data center and co-location offering.

"I think it's going to be a great combination for partners who will have access to additional data centers that Rackspace can support," she said. "Datapipe also has public sector experience, which is something else partners can now access through Rackspace."

McLin is a "Racker" veteran, having started with the San Antonio-based company when it had 220 employees in 2002 as one of three staff accountants. McLin in quickly worked her way up the ranks, serving in various account and business development roles before finally being promoted to vice president of North American channel sales and alliances in July.

"I managed customers and their day-to-day business while talking to them about their goals and how technology helped them meet those goals," she said. "But I ultimately fell in love with the sales aspect," she said.

Even in her roles on the direct sales side of Rackspace's business, McLin frequently worked with channel partners.

"Through these sales roles, you realize that customers have their trusted advisers they go to as well, so I found myself working with partners to even help hit numbers and solve problems -- partners were always there," she said.