Exclusive: PTC Vet Kerry Grimes Joins Schneider Electric’s Aveva To Lead Global Partner Program


Kerry Grimes says he could have imagined working at PTC for the rest of his career after successfully expanding the industrial software vendor's channel program. But then Aveva Software came knocking.

Aveva, an industrial software vendor that is majority owned by Schneider Electric, recently hired Grimes, PTC's former channel chief, as the company's new head of global partners — a role that will task him with making the industrial Internet of Things player a more "partner-centric company," Grimes told CRN in an exclusive interview on Monday, his first day on the job.

[Related: PTC Discloses $18M Restructuring Charge To Boost IoT, AR Business]

"There's all kinds of people saying they're in the IoT business today, and what I like about Aveva is they have some very specific solutions that are in IoT for manufacturing, like predictive analytics," he said.

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Grimes left his role as PTC's top channel executive last week after working at the Boston-based company for more than five years. During that period, he doubled the company's partner-related revenue and helped the company expand into new territories, including China, as PTC invested heavily into industrial IoT and augmented reality solutions for its manufacturing customers.

Based in Cambridge, U.K., Aveva got its start in 1967 as a computer-aided design research center, but the company has evolved over the decades into an engineering and industrial software giant, with more than 16,000 customers, 4,000 partners and 4,400 employees across 70 -plus offices, according to a 2018 fact sheet. The company's revenue last year was 704.6 million euros.

In 2017, the company announced that it would combine with Schneider Electric's industrial software business in a reverse takeover that would give Schneider Electric 60 percent ownership in Aveva, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange. At the time of the announcement, Schneider Electric's CEO said the combination would "address customers' requirements along the full asset life cycle," from the designing and building of systems to their operations.

Grimes said his goal is to create a unified partner network from three existing partner programs in a bid to make Aveva more "partner-centric." While Grimes was not given a specific target for channel-related revenue, he said, "channel excellence" is one of the five strategic mandates in 2019 for Aveva CEO Craig Hayman, who was previously PTC's COO before he left the company last year. Grimes said he will share more of his plans for the new program at a channel event in April.

"We do not have specific goals for X number of years, but I do know one of the reasons they reached out to hire me is they wanted to be a more partner-centric company than they are today," he said.

Currently, the Wonderware plant automation software, which came into the fold via the Schneider Electric deal, is Aveva's only solution that brings in most of its revenue from channel partners, according to Grimes. Aveva's engineering and asset performance management solutions, on the other hand, have mostly relied on direct sales while its monitoring and controls solutions have some channel partners.

To create a unified partner network, Grimes said he plans to tap into Wonderware's large partner network to sell Aveva's other solutions. He added that the partner network will have different partner types, such as global system integrators, solution providers and distributions, as well as different solution tracks and industry focuses.

[Related: Wind River Future-Proofs Industrial IoT With New Helix Edge Platform]

"One of the challenges I'm going to have to figure out is what are the different tracks we're going to have, and how can we get Wonderware partners to sell asset performance management," he said.

Grimes said he will also develop new partner strategies for how Aveva works with Schneider Electric.

"Even if Schneider Electric owns us, Schneider Electric has a lot of accounts that Aveva doesn't," he said.

This point was emphasized in a Monday email obtained by CRN that was sent to Aveva employees by Steen Lomholt-Thomsen, the company’s head of global sales, announcing the hiring of Grimes. "Building an even stronger 'go to market' relationship" with Schneider Electric will be a specific focus, he wrote.

"As a key strategic partner of Aveva, we need to further deepen the relationship with Schneider Electric in order to achieve the stretch target we have set for next year," Lomholt-Thomsen said in the email.

Grimes said he is taking over a channel organization that has roughly 80 employees now, with plans to hire approximately another 15 this year. The executive will also be in charge of the company’s group that manages relations with global system integrators.

One of the reasons Grimes said he decided to join Aveva was the company's focus on industry-specific applications, like predictive maintenance, which he said differs from PTC's platform focus. He said it was also an opportunity for him to change industry focus from discrete manufacturing, PTC's focus, to process manufacturing, which is where Aveva is primarily focused. Those differences don't negate his feelings that PTC was a great company to work for, he added.

"I believe, especially in an early environment like we are today, our customers will be more receptive to a solution approach than a platform approach," Grimes said. "I believe even though partners like to create solutions, they like to start with something then adapt, as opposed to invent the whole thing. They want to start with something that is scalable and replicable that they can go and adapt in for specific customer situations."

Jack McAvoy, PTC's vice president of corporate communications, said PTC wishes him all the best with his new role but added that Grimes' positioning of PTC "is not really correct." He said PTC offers what are considered "app-centric platforms" through which the company offers its own applications and solutions, such as the new Operator Advisor workforce productivity tool, while allowing partners to build their own.

In a follow-up email, Grimes clarified that while PTC does offer its own applications on top of ThingWorx, he argued it hasn't been the company's focus while Aveva has traditionally focused on industry-specific solutions.

"Not arguing [that they don't have a] good product offering," he said. "They are just approaching the market differently. "