New Hitachi Vantara channel chief pledges change with upcoming IoT-focused partner program

Kimberly King, who now runs the Hitachi Vantara channel, indicated that the new program will be announced in April and will be rolled out in stages after that. She also noted that it will be very different from the existing Hitachi True North program.

Kimberly King, Vice President, Partners Strategy and Programs, Hitachi Vantara

Hitachi Vantara has announced the appointment of Kimberly King as the new company’s Vice President, Partners Strategy and Programs. She will report to Mike Walkey, senior vice president, Strategic Partners & Alliances. King indicated that a new program specifically focused on Vantara, outside of the broad Hitachi True North program is coming, and that it will be focused on helping Vantara deliver on their stated goal of becoming the number one player around the Internet of Things.

Prior to joining Hitachi Vantara, King served as vice president, global partners and channels at Progress Software, which makes platforms and tools for mission-critical applications. Her earlier career includes channel stints at Tideway Systems [acquired by BMC] and Softek Storage Solutions [acquired by IBM].

Hitachi formally announced the creation of Vantara last fall at their inaugural .NEXT event, uniting three Hitachi companies — Hitachi Data Systems, Hitachi Insight Group and Pentaho – into a new company designed to leverage Hitachi’s divergent strengths in operational technologies [OT] as well as IT and create a powerhouse focused on the Internet of Things.

“Our goal is to be number one in the Internet of Things,” King told ChannelBuzz. She indicated that to get there, significant changes will be required both with the partner program, and the partner base itself.

“The Hitachi True North partner program has been a very quality one over the long haul,” King said. “However, there has been a tremendous amount of change over last few months, and as part of that we are taking the True North Program, and evolving that into a program specifically for Hitachi Vantara. That new program will be announced in April.” It will then be rolled out, in stages, over the months following.

The new program will reflect the need to mobilize partners differently towards the new company’s objectives.

“We have to look at our landscape of partners,” King said. “In some cases, we will be able to bring our existing partners through, but in some cases they will also be different partners than we have today. We want partners to be able to drive value and not just margins. To do that, we need to look at partners in a different light than we have in the past. We also want to make sure that we can help drive them drive differentiated solutions to market – and that they don’t see us as just a storage vendor.”

King said that the new program will segment partners differently than the present one.

“We are looking more at segmenting partners across the board into competencies and value, along the lines of partner go-to-market business models,” she said. “This will let us better leverage partner competencies across the board. It will also let us work closely with them on joint solutions, including  joint go-to-market efforts.”

The segmentation of partners in the new program is unlikely to translate into a reduction in the number of partners.

“I wouldn’t say that we will have less partners, because our partners are transforming their businesses at the same time that we are,” King said. “It isn’t necessarily for us to drag them along. Tech Data has created a booming IoT practice and we are working aggressively with them. Certainly there will be some partners who don’t want to move – lifestyle businesses and some ISV partners – but most Vantara partners have embraced the change and the transformation.”

King indicated that segmentation may involve moving the lower tier partners to a distribution model, to give them what she called a soft place to land.

“We haven’t yet made a final determination on that,” she stated.

More ISV partners, and ones with existing practices around the Internet of Things will be recruited.

“We have a ton of OT experience with our core businesses, and that will give us an edge there,” King said. “The IoT is very much about expertise in a specific vertical, as diverse as agriculture and smart cities. There are edge companies that have built specific solutions in those areas, where they have automated everything, and we are talking with several of those now.” Both global and regional system integrators are seen as a critical addition as well, in order to project Hitachi Vantara into IoT leadership.

Internet of Things solutions by necessity will involve more collaboration between partners on joint solutions than has  been the case in the past, and King indicated that the new program will work proactively to facilitate this.

“Partner to partner collaboration will be very important,” she said. “Once we understand all their competencies, this is something that we will be driving within the program. In the beginning, it will be more of a manual process for us, doing things like making introductions. We will automate that as the year goes on, through our portal.”