VMware Global Channel Chief On Overhauling 'Our Entire Partner Program'

Big Changes Ahead For VMware Partners

VMware Global Channel Chief Jenni Flinders has massive plans in store to completely overhaul the company's Partner Program from the ground up with specific incentives around Amazon Web Services as well as synergies with Dell EMC.

"We're going to reconstruct the entire partner program. It's going to get a total overhaul," said Flinders in an interview with CRN at VMworld 2018. "We're going to let the partners engage with us based on their business models."

Flinders, who spent 15 years in top channel executive positions at Microsoft, became VMware's global channel leader in April after leading a consultancy practice that advised clients on channel strategy. She talked to CRN about VMware's Partner Program overhaul strategy and her channel vision.

What’s your plan for the VMware Partner Program?

If you look at how VMWare has grown over the past 20 years, success was predicated on vSphere and was very transactional. If you look at where our technologies are advancing -- cloud, services, driving consumption and deployment – it's a very different motion that's moving beyond the transaction. So it gives us a great opportunity to rethink our strategy and our approach with our partners in the ecosystem. We're going to reconstruct the entire partner program. It's going to get a total overhaul. It's going to drive simplified engagement. So instead of us engaging by nomenclature from which we identify the partners, which sometimes predicates the way we engage with them, [we’re rethinking our strategy]. So, for example, 'You're a distributor' or 'You're a reseller.' Well, they go, 'Well, I'm not just a reseller, I do a lot more, like I'm a managed service provider and I have a professional services offering.' We're going to let the partners engage with us based on their business models.

So what is the new program going to be geared toward?

It's going to pivot toward our strategic priorities. So think of the way we launched our Master Services Competencies as being a little taste of what it's going to look like. So really putting together a number of competencies to create the best in class in that area.

Cloud and services are huge opportunities for us. The momentum with AWS is picking up a lot, but now we get to drive the conversations around consumption and customer usage. Services is a huge opportunity for us to build out the capability in our ecosystem with very strong VMware practice areas so that partners can deliver services to our customers, help with deployments, etc. Then we'll make sure we're pivoting our investments to also coincide to support the focus areas and priorities.

What will VMware push in the new program in regard to incentives, and how can partners become the most profitable?

We have to shift. Some of the partner conversations this week have been, 'What do you want us to lean in on? What's important for you?' So it's not always what's important for [VMware], but what’s important is where the partners know they can drive momentum. Sometimes they have really great ideas because they're out there every single day. So we will adjust, but with input from the partners on where we drive incentives, which product categories, which solution areas, etc.

When are you planning to launch the new program?

Early in our fiscal year, so probably around the April time frame. My goal is to launch this at our Partner Leadership summit in April.

Are there going to be different types of tiers?

I can't give you specifics on it right now, but we are going to look at a total overhaul. … Partners are loving the fact when I tell them, 'I'm going to give you the ability to choose how you want to engage with us based on your business models and what you're really good at.'

Will there be any changes to channel account managers?

We're still going to make it simple for them to get engaged in that area, but the momentum we're seeing around the Master Services Competencies is a good leading indicator that we're going the right way.

Will this new program specifically help Dell EMC partners in any way?

This is the VMware Partner Program, dedicated to the VMware strategic priorities. However, we still have the Dell EMC partnership. There are also synergies that are going to work across that as well. We are very well connected with [Dell EMC Channel Chief] Joyce [Mullen] and their teams. We're absolutely working on these synergies, especially if you think about hyper-converged infrastructure. We lead that category.

Will there be any specific incentives for AWS in the new program?

Of course. We will continue to build the momentum with AWS for sure. That is absolutely part of it. The way we drive consumption is going to be part of that as well. So moving beyond the, 'Hey I got the client activated and now I need to drive the consumption. So what do consumption incentives look like?'

What's your message to channel partners in regard to preparing for this new Partner Program?

Look at your skill sets and see where you can lean in with us. Find out how we can help you more. Sometimes partners don’t know all the avenues to resources, so the more you know the better. It's going to be so exciting when we turn the program around in terms of how we drive this engagement going forward. … Looking at my history in this industry, we've worked through tough transformations in the ecosystem before and based on the foundational transformations that some of our partners have gone through over the past few years, I think they will be able adapt to some of these new opportunities a lot quicker.