VMware shuffles channel execs to focus on strategy, operations

Ross Brown, senior vice president of partners and alliances for VMware

Ross Brown, senior vice president of corporate alliances at VMware

LAS VEGAS — VMware announced some changes to its channel leadership team ahead of its VMworld conference, held here this week, with former channel chief Ross Brown moving into a role focused on forward-looking strategy, especially around its emerging products portfolio.

Under the changes, Brown moves into a role as senior vice president of corporate alliances, while longtime VMware channel veteran Brandon Sweeney, has taken Brown’s previous role as senior vice president of the worldwide partner organization.

In a chat with ChannelBuzz.ca at VMworld, the executives characterized the changes as designed to play to each individual’s particular strengths.

Brown came to VMware two years ago with a mission to “turn around and stabilize our channel issues,” he recalls, which included flattened revenues through partners, and a declining number of partners engaging. The strategy to turn it around, he said, was about driving profitability for partners — but also focusing on predictability, which had been a particularly loud partner pain point.

“We were profitable on one deal, and then unprofitable on the next, which made us a good bet, sometimes, but a bad investment,” Brown recalled.

The strategy involved making channels more crucial to the business by embedding them in the commercial business at the company, rather than partners’ previous status as “an overlay” on top of the business. It also involved a number of changes that have come out over the last year, most recently significant changes to deal registration, and the retirement of the longstanding “channel tax” that put through-partner sales at a financial disadvantage out of the gate.

Brandon Sweeney, senior vice president of the worldwide partner organization at VMware

Changes made, the role of global channel chief has moved to one of execution and operations, a skill set that’s outside of Brown’s preferred areas of orchestrating change and developing long-term strategy. On the other hand, it’s right in Sweeney’s wheelhouse, in Brown’s estimation.

“Brandon’s an execution executive,” Brown said.

In his new role, Brown continues to own the Dell joint go-to-market as well as the commercial unit, into which partners fall, and the global inside sales team. He inherits an organization that is “performing well in all segments” with “really good momentum.”

“I want to focus on sales execution and alignment with partners to drive top-line revenues,” Sweeney said.

Along with executing some of the announced changes — shifts to deal registration, increased profitability through enterprise licenses, and the dismantling of the aforementioned “channel tax,” Sweeney said his early-day priorities for the role include “driving more synergy with the Dell partnership,” including some changes to the joint go-to-market outlined to partners at VMworld.

“We’re fixing some things that were causing slowdowns,” he said.

Meanwhile, Brown shifts to a role working with corporate alliances and building relationships with CISOs.

“I’m focused on two things — making VMware the cloud infrastructure layer for every public and private cloud, and making Workspace One the way that applications are consumed,” Brown said. “It’s a simple motion – go work with our infrastructure alliance partners to get them to virtualize, to deliver their offerings as VMs within Cloud Foundation, and to do as much value creation as we can with the high market-cap platforms — the Samsungs, Apples, Googles, and the large applications like SAP.”

Brown’s bailiwick also includes global systems integrators.

As he describes it — his role is to create a unified VMware-based fabric, against which channel partners can sell. Or, to further simplify it — “I build a racecar, and then Brandon drives it.”