VMware's new channel chief rolled out on Tuesday four partner competencies designed to drive business to partners leveraging the virtualization leader's technological innovations to deliver ongoing services.
VMware needed to formalize support for partners offering project-based, advisory and managed services, and help them differentiate their practices by validating that expertise, Jenni Flinders, vice president for worldwide channels, told CRN.
At the VMware Partner Leadership Summit, Flinders introduced the VMware Master Services Competencies for cloud management and automation, data center virtualization, network virtualization, and desktop and mobility.
"As we guide our partners down the services journey, some of the benefits we're going to focus this program around are on how we're going to help partners build services-enablement capabilities and priority access to the enablement program," Flinders told CRN.
VMware's channel program in the past had been largely transaction-oriented. But the latest technologies, especially those facilitating hybrid cloud deployments, create opportunities for partners to add value on a recurring basis, she said.
And delivering ongoing services post-transaction is "hugely profitable for partners," said Flinders.
By extending its portfolio across cloud, data center and endpoints, VMware has made it possible for partners to deepen their practice models, and that's the focus of the evolving channel program, she said.
The Master Services Competencies emphasize driving customer demand, helping partners advertise their capabilities through badging and branding, and making it easier for customers to find the partners that best meet their needs.
"There is so much more for our partners to build a holistic value-chain to the customer," Flinders said, and the "deeper the value, the longer-term relationship will be entrenched."
The latest competencies had been under development since the start of the year—before Flinders took the helm of the company's channel organization at the start of last month. Now it's her job to advance them in the channel.
"We've got to stay ahead of the curve with our partners. I'm looking for ways we can be leading edge out there for the partner ecosystem," she told CRN.
While there's a lot of overlap with the skills validated by technological certifications, the new competencies are earned independently.
Flinders, who spent 15 years at Microsoft, and the past few years as CEO of Daarlandt Partners, a firm advising industry clients on channel strategies, said VMware's partner-centric approach to sales "certainly pulls at my heart strings."
"For me it's an opportunity to look at how we double-down on VMware with our partners and grow the business together," she said. "I'm going to be the channel's greatest advocate and voice."
While some of VMware's born-in-the-cloud partners intricately understand the services model, other partners are placing big bets to extend their practices in that direction, she said.
"Although the channel sells a lot of VMware licenses, services are what makes the partner successful with customers," said C.R. Howdyshell, president of Rolta AdvizeX, a VMware partner based in Worthington, Ohio.
The new competencies show that VMware is listening to partners, Howdyshell, who sits on VMware's North American Partner Advisory Council, told CRN.
AdvizeX aims to capitalize on VMware's momentum by moving its practice beyond vSphere, Howdyshell said, and more toward applications and containers on VMware’s platforms. The new competencies will accelerate those efforts by empowering his team with greater knowledge, skills and tools.
"The Master Services Competencies are the best approach for partner differentiation for services, while assuring VMware the partners can execute complex services successfully," he said.
Howdyshell told CRN he has yet to meet Flinders in person, but on calls has found her "someone very in touch with the channel."
VMware already does more than 70 percent of its total business through the channel, he noted, and Flinders will likely drive an even higher level of commitment to partners.
Further differentiation for the top delivery partners will result in increased revenues for VMware, and more loyalty from its partner community, he told CRN.