VMware Launches ‘Game-Changer’ Lifecycle Partner Program

‘It’s awesome that VMware is now willing to fund these types of activities because many of them are big investments and big expenses for us,’ says Bob Keblusek, CTO of Sentinel Technologies.


VMware is giving channel partners new funding to conduct customer assessments, proof of concepts and rewards for cooperating with other partners with the launch of its Customer Lifecycle Incentive program.

“It’s awesome that VMware is now willing to fund these types of activities because many of them are big investments and big expenses for us,” said Bob Keblusek, chief technology office at Sentinel Technologies, a top notch Downers Grove, Ill.-based VMware partner. “Assessments are super-high value. So with VMware now actually funding the assessment, that’s going to lead to a better adoption or an expanded adoption of their product portfolio in the interest of the customer’s business. This is a incredible valuable program to me because now my lifecycle service can pull in my consulting service, and we can bring that super-high value into a VMware-centric engagement.”

VMware’s new Customer Lifecycle Incentive program will give partners a flat incentive to provide technical assessments, proof of concepts and partner-to-partner joint cooperation. The program is available to all Advanced and Principal VMware partners.

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[Related: VMware To Acquire Mesh7 To Beef Up Cloud Security, Tanzu]

By launching the new channel program, VMware has gone from providing five incentives to 13 incentives across customer lifecycle in a move to support the channel’s transition with VMware toward Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and subscription, according to Tracy-Ann Palmer, vice president of Partner Programs and Experience at VMware.

“We’ve now doubled the opportunity for our partners from a profitability perspective,” said Palmer in an interview with CRN. “So if partners go along this journey with us, they will have doubled the opportunity. That was very strategically intended with this new program, to ensure that as we go down the SaaS and subscription journey, our partners are growing with us as we’re growing that business.”

VMware’s three new main incentives inside the program are the Technical Assessment Program, Proof of Concept and the Partner-to-Partner Accelerator.

In terms of the Technical Assessment Program, Palmer said the first step in a SaaS and subscription model is the assessment phase.

“A customer comes to a partner and says, ‘Hey I want to understand all of my workloads. I want to understand what’s happening under the covers. I want to move applications. I want to do migrations.’ What would previously happen is we wouldn’t incent or give partners any motion to actually drive that assessment. What we’re doing now is saying, ‘We understand that this is an important part of the lifecycle and the customer journey. This is where partners add value. So we’re going to make sure that we have an incentive, a reward to drive those assessments,” said Palmer.

Keblusek said Sentinel does a tremendous amount of assessments through its consulting and advisory services organization which in turn benefits the company’s lifecycle business.

“If you look at VMware’s cloud managed tools, for example which are excellent, there’s a certain lifecycle behind that. There’s a lifecycle behind something like Tanzu which is a very cloud integrated platform,” said Keblusek. “Having a lifecycle program that brings it all together is great, because it’s a big commitment that needs quality resources and people. It also has an opportunity to be a huge differentiator.”

Another major incentive in the new program is the Partner-to-Partner Accelerator.

The accelerator rewards what VMware dubs “sell through” partners who identify opportunities and book eligible orders, then hands it off to another partner who activates the solution and facilitates consumption of VMware services.

“This is a game-changer,” said VMware’ Palmer. “The strategic nature of the Partner-To-Partner accelerator is about creating a community.”

Palmer said every customer lifecycle deal is completed by at least two or more different partners. The accelerator recognizes each individual partner’s role in the deal and rewards a solution provider accordingly with a flat incentive payment.

“When you have a loyal and trusted advisor partner community, what happens is, they start working together and that really is the holy grail and multiplier effect,” said Palmer. “We also recognize that there’s handoffs associated with that, and we want to make sure you are incented for the part, that value-motion that you covered within that deal.”

“It helps partners stay within their core competencies which helps our customers because then we’re truly delivering that customer success methodology which we are really trying to implement into our culture,” she said.

Turning to VMware’s new Proof of Concept (POC) incentive, both transacting and non-transacting partners are funded for delivering POCs.

Palmer said channel partners do multiple POC’s for each customer which is why VMware wants to fund partners who invest in doing the feasibility work in helping customers understand VMware’s broad portfolio.

“If VMware can actually fund more of a production-ready POC, that’s a fantastic opportunity,” said Sentinel’s Keblusek. “Because now I can go and pick something like Carbon Black, or pick something like VeloCloud with SD-WAN and SASE, and I can actually go provide the full SASE experience and do it right with the right resources to properly plan it.”

Keblusek said new program will help VMware catch up to software competitors like Microsoft who offer similar partner funding to drive SaaS and subscription adoption.

“It’s a great new program for VMware. This could help them possibly catch up to the people like a Microsoft or a software company that has been application-centric since the start,” he said. “It’s good to see VMware, who I would say has historically been a little more infrastructure-centric rather than application-centric, do something like this. Because once you move into that application world, it’s really about outcomes and adoption. I’m very bullish on VMware.”