Here’s What 25 Channel Execs See As The Keys To Success For Their Partners In 2021

We asked the honorees of the Channel Chiefs 2021 list to tell us what they see as the key to success for their partners in this uncertain year. Here’s what they had to say.

Sage Advice

Solution providers have likely never entered a year with so much uncertainty as they have with 2021. How much longer will they have to prospect and sell using virtual methods? How soon will business return to “normal?” Which customers are still in business? And of those that have survived the last year, how will their IT needs change from before the pandemic?

We asked the honorees of the 2021 Channel Chiefs list to tell us what they see as the keys to success for their partners in 2021. Here’s what some of them had to say.

Amazon Web Services

Doug Yeum

Head of Global Partner Organization

AWS partners who truly understand the importance of moving fast and developing deep specializations across industry, uses cases, workloads and AWS services will continue to earn the trust of AWS field sales teams and AWS customers.

Also, partners who commit to working closely with AWS sales, marketing and partner teams, and leveraging AWS Partner Network programs will be better positioned to deliver greater value. Lastly, partners with senior leaders who set audacious goals to working with AWS and remove any inertia in their organizations to become cloud-first companies will succeed.

APC by Schneider Electric

Shannon Sbar

VP, Channels

The keys to success for channel partners will be continuing to find ways to improve their profitability, continuing to differentiate their businesses and help them solve problems for their customers in our new way of working. Our partners need the right tools to do this—access to the best training, offers, products and services—that will allow them to guide their customers to best choice in IT infrastructure.

We need to continue to educate our partners through improved programs and certifications on how our integrated products/solutions will best deliver those solutions quickly and effectively to their end users.

Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company

Donna Grothjan

VP, Worldwide Channels

The key to success for channel partners in 2021 is not only addressing their customers‘ IT solution needs but also meeting those needs under a financial model that takes into account the pressures of their customers’ businesses. Partners should work with their distributors and vendors to offer customers the most flexible financing options possible, in addition to robust solutions.

For partners that are responsible for their customers‘ networks, they must understand how to ensure that their network is continuously connected and protected and also has the ability to analyze and act before they or their customer even detects an issue.


Pam Cory

VP, Global Marketing

Following the pandemic, it is imperative that BitTitan channel partners understand their customers‘ digital transformation challenges and unique needs. Many companies turned to channel partners last year in urgent need of cloud services and digital upgrades. Now, channel partners must step in as trusted resources to help customers implement long-term technology enablement plans.

The process of using digital technologies to create or modify business processes, culture and customer experiences is constantly changing. BitTitan partners must stay abreast of new technologies and the changing market landscape to help their customers maintain business continuity and position them for success.

Cisco Systems

Marc Surplus

VP, Partner Strategy and Programs

Shifting focus from the product life cycle to recurring customer value is the top success factor for Cisco partners, whether they integrate technology that customers own or provide partner-managed or SaaS solutions. That transition has broad-reaching implications and our partners have been making good progress for some time.

Through our Lifecycle Incentives, Cisco Services Partner Program and Cisco Managed Services Program—all of which will be streamlined and improved as part of the new Cisco Partner Program in 2021 and 2022—Cisco is mitigating partners‘ costs and risks to help with the transition to a focus on recurring value.

Citrix Systems

Bronwyn Hastings

SVP, Worldwide Channel Sales, Ecosystems

Employee experience is paramount as companies explore the return to the office or hybrid workplace models. COVID-19 accelerated the digitization and cloud transitions. Partners who innovate with microapps, build cloud transformation offerings, and create service strategies helping customers stay connected to their customers will deliver increasing value.

Leveraging the full potential of Citrix as a platform will create multiple revenue opportunities for continued growth and industry expansion. Agile cloud business models will become an important factor in a channel partner’s economic models. Delivering value continuously in quick sprints with an ecosystem in a digital workspace will become pivotal to success.

Comcast Business

Craig Schlagbaum

SVP, Channel Chief

Partners will need to shift to selling more solutions than ever before across multiple vendor alternatives. At the same time, they will need be viewed as the trusted adviser for creating desired business outcomes for their clients. Providing more cost-effective and nimble network management solutions such as SD-WAN, UTM and best-of-breed networks will differentiate partners and continue to strengthen the relationships and success they have.

Dell Technologies

Erica Lambert

SVP, Global Services Sales, Channel, Alliances, OEM Sales

Everything as-a-Service (XaaS) is currently dominating headlines as critical solutions are evolving to satisfy new business needs and expectations. Understanding how to adapt business models to address this shift from purchasing to consumption models will be a priority. We know services will be a key to success in this space and a catalyst for customer outcomes.

Additionally, continuing to support our most successful partners on understanding where to invest in their own services capabilities and where it makes sense to resell and leverage ours is also a key priority for our team.

Google Cloud

Carolee Gearhart

Global Channel Chief, VP, Global SMB Sales

2021 will be all about building on the shift towards the cloud and digital efficiency for businesses of all sizes. Partners will continue doubling down on their own innovation leveraging our technology and digitizing all aspects of their funnel. They‘ll use this moment to connect personally in a way that’s possible when meeting people in their homes, building new levels of trust with customers. It’ll be about listening to customers, meeting them where they are, then accelerating them to where they want to go. This requires partners who embody Google Cloud’s core differentiators—trust, flexibility, agility, intelligence and innovation.

Ingram Micro

Tony Celeste

Executive Director, GM, Public Sector

Changing the engagement with customers is the key to success in 2021. IT modernization is out and digital transformation is in. To succeed at scale, channel partners must focus on the end-user mission and linking their IT solutions to their mission outcomes. Modernizing IT infrastructure has everything to do with back-office automation. Digital transformation is closely linked to the mission of government. It requires process re-engineering, changing the way the mission is accomplished. Improving citizen service, protecting first responders‘ warfighters, improving health outcomes, teaching and learning in new ways [are key].


Gavriella Schuster

Corporate VP

The keys to success are differentiation, flexibility and adaptability. More than ever, customers are moving toward the cloud for the resiliency it brings in empowering remote work scenarios, business continuity and security necessary today. That shift to cloud has created increased opportunity for managed services revenue, which provides persistent economic value for both the partner and customer. Investing in business models that deliver recurring revenue will help organizations better withstand economic downturns going forward.

Another key will be to offer changes in financial payment models for customers, such as ‘money back offerings,’ financed services [and] free deployment ahead of managed services.


Christian Alvarez

SVP, Worldwide Channels

In today‘s subscription and consumption-based economy, the buyer’s journey will continue to evolve and hybrid and multi-cloud architectures will be more essential to enable rapid transitions and retain maximum agility. Partners at the front lines of customer transformations need to embrace the power of the cloud, modernize legacy systems, move more workloads to the cloud, and optimize access to data in the new era of the enterprise being everywhere. Proliferation of ‘Everything-as-a-Service’ models will require partners to reinvent themselves in this new reality and adopt new economic business terms to offer flexible consumption and subscription options for the customers.


Craig J. Weinstein

VP, America’s Partner Organization

[Key to partner success will be] the ability to modify their product offering and working structure in a climate of COVID, WFH and regional restrictions. They need to think differently about their customers and how their customers are rapidly embracing new computing models and solutions to operate and deliver AI services and solutions to improve the customer experience.

This will push our partners to understand their customer business imperatives in a COVID age differently and understand who‘s advancing AI , analytics and machine learning projects and the people and tools these teams are working on to deliver new outcomes for the business.


Ryan Walsh

Chief Product Officer, Channel Chief

Successful partners will evolve their technology stacks while also being laser-focused on improving their customers‘ user experience. Attaching value-added services to each cloud product is vital to ensuring profitability. Automation and fast implementation are keys to success, as customers will expect more, faster. MSPs must offer a security solution, as that is a leading market focus with so many people working remotely. And successful partners will ensure they provide a great customer experience every time.


HoJin Kim

VP, Worldwide Channel Sales

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it‘s that things can change very quickly. What we’ve seen in our business and with our partners is that we’re both most successful when we stay close to the relationships that matter most. That could be the relationships we have with our customers or our vendors. In 2021, that’s going to be even more important. The more we understand our customers’ business needs, the better we will be at using technology to address those needs and finding partners that can help us be successful.


Kendra Krause

SVP, Global Channels, Sales Operations

The key to success for channel partners in 2021 will be determining their role in a customer‘s environment. Today, end users are realizing they need increasingly specific services within their organizations. They are determining what they will keep in-house and what they will outsource. Partners need to decide what their niche of a service offering will be so they can fill that gap for the end user.

StorageCraft Technology

Andy Zollo

VP, Worldwide Sales

Our October 2020 survey indicates that 75 percent of partners expect to support a distributed workforce well into 2021, and 35 percent have been proactive about updating their managed offering to better support the hybrid workforce, and to be profitable while doing so.

Differentiating their brand by re-establishing the value they bring to customers will be critical in 2021, particularly when it comes to the business-continuity category. Vulnerabilities brought on by the remote workforce and effectively protecting any siloed infrastructure both require customer education and a promise to elevate their business resiliency with the solutions they bring as their outsourced technology partners.


Rachel Cassidy

SVP, Global Channels, Cloud

The ability to be flexible and adaptable, not only in the way they work with customers, but also through the solutions they offer. Solutions offered will undoubtedly be scrutinized by customers for TCO and ROI. Providing customers with robust, scalable, yet flexible solutions that allow [them] to utilize legacy systems and adopt new ones like microservices, or that allow customers to move their applications seamlessly from core to cloud to edge will be vital.

Tableau Software

Julie Slocum Bennani

SVP, Worldwide Partners, Alliances

In 2021, Tableau partners need to focus on continuing to remain current on Tableau‘s full range of offerings and ensuring they can position them clearly by use case to their customers; building more solution-oriented capabilities, which may include greater services capacity, as well as crafting repeatable offerings that match their business focus and will land more efficiently and effectively with customers; and deepening the co-selling discipline with both Salesforce and Tableau sellers to ensure we have a joint perspective on the best high-value solution for the customer and that we land it.

Tech Data

Cheryl Neal

VP, Strategy, Vendor Acquisition, Recruitment

The key to success for our channel partners in 2021 is to reduce complexity for their customers. The channel partner can do this by continuing to be a student of the industry, embracing new technology enablement and personalizing their vertical industry sales approach. They will continue to be seen as the technology experts to help their customers survive and thrive.


Kevin Rooney

VP, Americas Channel Sales

Partners need to be committed to providing the best cloud data management practice for our shared customers. This means [that] regardless of where our customers’ data resides (physical systems, SaaS services, public cloud, private cloud, hybrid cloud or multi-cloud), our platform helps thousands of companies keep their businesses running. Enablement of [the] Veeam Availability Platform will be key, as well as working closely with our sales and technical resources to best serve the customer. We encourage partners to take advantage of Veeam‘s 100 percent channel approach with both sales and services.


Sandy Hogan

SVP, Worldwide Commercial, Partner Organization

The biggest opportunity for VMware partners is to focus on the value continuum and creating outcome-focused solutions. For our partners, aligning to our Master Services Competencies strategy validates the true capabilities and competencies available in order to deliver a quality end-user experience with VMware offerings.

Their opportunity is to be at the business table where data and apps are playing prominent roles—they can do that by aligning to the life-cycle value continuum and getting closer to the customer, where for every dollar spent on tech nearly two-thirds flows through the channel and 90 percent is implemented by the channel (Forrester).

Wasabi Technologies

Marty Falaro

EVP, Chief Operating Officer

Selling the value of migration to the cloud is a key strategy for channel partners in 2021 and adding Wasabi as a service offering, rather than allowing customers to bring their own storage, is a money-making opportunity. Wasabi is a natural add-on to backup solutions like Veeam, Commvault, Rubrik and others and there is an opportunity to sell a bundled solution there with storage included, which can increase the channel‘s deal size with additional sticky and growing recurring revenue.

WatchGuard Technologies

Sean Price

SVP, Worldwide Sales

Like most businesses, solution providers make money by increasing recurring revenue while reducing costs. In 2021 successful MSPs will focus on vendor consolidation to work with those that can help not only attract and grow client rosters, but also contribute to cost savings and higher margins. With the right vendor partnerships, consolidation can help drive competitive differentiation, which will increase new business success and end customer wallet share over time and can also generate dramatic savings as it relates to staffing, training and certification, and ongoing service administration.


Ken Grohe

President, CRO

The key to success for Weka‘s partners will be training accreditation and certification, which will enable a more consultative sales approach that our customers require. And our partners will need to have an AI/ML, SAS analytics, containers and hybrid cloud practice [as well as] key vertical alignment in the manufacturing, AI/ML, retail, financial services, life sciences/genomics, GPU, and geospatial/oil and gas markets.