VMware’s Channel Chief On Dell Spin-Off And Partner Vision

VMware’s worldwide channel chief, Sandy Hogan, talks to CRN about her partner vision for the future and if Dell Technologies’ upcoming spin-off of VMware will impact the two companies’ channel synergies.

Sandy Hogan’s Vision For Channel Partners In 2021 And Beyond

VMware’s worldwide channel leader, Sandy Hogan, has big plans in store for partners ahead as the software and virtualization superstar doubles down on new services opportunities, joint solutions labs and its mission to become the multi-cloud computing kingpin.

“Services is going to play an even more prominent role for partners as we enhance our Master Services Competencies. It’s really becoming a services-led motion more so than a services-attached motion,” said Hogan, senior vice president of VMware’s global partner and commercial organization.

“Our momentum going into 2021, we have had this mantra of ‘partner-first.’ ‘Partner first’ in everything that we do as we build our strategies, as we gain input that partners are to really be part of the build with us, not just the recipients of what we do,” said Hogan.

In an interview with CRN, Hogan explains her channel partner strategy in 2021 and beyond, if Dell Technologies’ spin-off of VMware later this year will impact the two companies channel synergies, and if VMware’s new CEO Raghu Raghuram is channel friendly.

Dell and VMware have many channel partner and channel program synergies. Will Dell’s spin-off of VMware change any channel synergies between the two companies?

With my responsibility leading the partner ecosystem, whether Dell owns us or not, Dell is a critical and strategic partner to us. So I don’t know that it’s really about anything changing as much as continuing to focus on the key areas that the power of us working together -- and not just Dell and VMware -- but with our broad ecosystem. I mean you combine our partner ecosystems together and we will continue to be able to provide unique value, especially in the multi- and hybrid cloud era. So I look at it as, just a continued way that – again, they are critical to our ecosystem. I look at all of our partners that way as well who are investing in areas of opportunity. From my standpoint, I see it as just continued momentum and great progress there.

Will VMware’s new CEO Raghu Raghuram (pictured) be a channel friendly leader?

Not only is he channel friendly, I would say that he is and will be a channel ambassador. That’s the real unique difference for us to scale to really create that relevance and value to the customer. With all of my conversations with Raghu, he places the partner right at the epicenter of that. So that warms my heart because that’s exactly what we’ve been so vested in the last 12 months that I’ve been here.

We’re super excited about our new CEO with Raghu and Sumit [Dhawan] as our new president – both who are incredibly partner-centric. Having a leader like Sumit who’s been living in the world of the customer experience and customers at the forefront, I think is going to really help us accelerate everything we’ve been building inside the partner organization.

I’m incredible excited about Raghu as CEO. His technical vision and his knowledge and where he sees the future in this multi-cloud area of computing. With customers deploying their applications across multiple clouds, data centers and the edge -- our any app, any cloud, any device strategy has really come to light. That’s the power of highlighting that partners have opportunity to engage with VMware more than ever.

What should VMware channel partners be doing right now to get the most out of VMware in the second half of 2021?

First, one of the biggest differentiation areas for VMware, but most importantly for our customers, is around the cloud journey. Helping customers on their digital transformation path. For us, VMware is in a unique position that we can work with the customer wherever they are in their journey.

If you think about that for a partner, the services opportunity for our partners is massive. Partners can truly be the delivery mechanism for digital transformation. That’s helping customers on their multi-cloud journey and help them be truly outcome oriented. Whether that is investing in true multi-cloud capabilities, in investing in app modernization, or investing in the anywhere workspace – those are key areas. Really on the solutions-front, bringing bits and pieces together and offering that pathway for partners to really be successful.

Services is going to play an even more prominent role for partners as we enhance our Master Services Competencies. It’s really becoming a services-led motion more so than a services-attached motion. It’s really a unique opportunity for our partners to lean in and build that capability.

Talk about VMware’s new services sales motion?

The history of VMware, we’ve traditionally been very focused on the transaction of selling the software and the resell nature of it. So if you see what’s starting to build up with the new incentives we’ve launched, we’re redesigning our partner-led services strategy that’s really going to enable partners to lead with the customers. They have those relationships and are trusted by the customers. We want to make sure that we’re fueling them to be that central advisor for the customer. So that’s what unique and really taking hold, particularly this year.

When you look at the VMware Cloud, you’re looking at application and infrastructure modernization – no customer is just going to pick one cloud. The cloud isn’t the destination, it’s really an architecture that enables customers to get the best access to data with unified security and operations. Our whole portfolio is so unique for our partners to partner with VMware in that capacity where they can truly be that multi-cloud partner for the customer. We provide support for every major public cloud hyperscaler. Partners can really provide that unique set of capabilities and we’re seeing partners bring a lot more services-orientation capabilities. … Partners are becoming the glue built-off the VMware platform that enables them to bring those capabilities.

What’s ahead in terms of new VMware channel enablement, programs or incentives that partners should be looking for?

The first is, we are very focused on a partner-led services strategy. So we’ve been working for the last six months on really coming into the market with that approach. I think you will see a number of investments and improvements over the next six months of what will be coming out there. We’ll see some evolution around investments in areas like customer success with our partners this year as another sub-point to that.

We’re also going to see a lot of investment in evolving VMware’s Master Services Competencies. So evolving our services competencies to the business aspects and solutions aspects.

We’ve been investing in doing joint solutions labs with our partners. We’ve done about 15 of them today with the goal of having almost 30 by mid-year. So what you’re really going to see coming to life in the back-half of this year is, instead of incubating it, we’re creating a more scalable way to bringing joint solutions with our partners to the marketplace. That’s a big area.

We’re investing in new areas like marketplaces and we’ll see an evolution of our MSP transformation as well in enabling our partners who are MSP-oriented to really capitalize on [new market opportunities]. Those are some pretty big areas that are transformational for us.

What is your vision for VMware’s channel strategy of the future?

Unleashing this whole power of the connected ecosystem to create customer for life value. That, to me, is the essence of going towards SaaS and subscription. In the last six months, our momentum going into 2021, we have had this mantra of ‘partner-first’. ‘Partner first’ in everything that we do as we build our strategies, as we gain input that partners are to really be part of the build with us, not just the recipients of what we do.

In April, we launched our first ever Executive Partner Advisory Board. We had our top 20 partners across the globe, and none of these were the big global partners, it is the partners who really represent our ecosystem. We had every one of our top seven or eight executives all involved deeply in the dialog. It wasn’t about programs. It was, ‘How do we lead with this partner-first around cloud and app modernization, around services-orientation.’ While it was an activity, it was an incredible milestone in how we really build partners into our model.

At the epicenter of that [our channel strategy] is profitability and making sure we are focusing on partner profitability of the relationship and not just the transaction. Teams are also working hard to ensure that all the enhancements to the programs are around simplicity: less administrative, faster to solution, faster to customer interaction and value. You combine all of that, we’re incredible humbled by the great engagements we’ve been getting from partners.