BlackBerry delivers strong messaging around vision and roadmap to channel partners

BlackBerry’s recent Partner Summit had clear objectives of articulating the company’s vision around their new Spark platform to partners, together with both the technology roadmap and the sales strategy around it. They also wanted to introduce the new sales leadership in Canada to partners.

Richard McLeod, VP of Global Enterprise Software Channel at BlackBerry

Earlier this month, BlackBerry held their annual BlackBerry Security Summit event in New York City. As part of the event, they continued the Partner Summit they had added to the event the previous year. BlackBerry used this year’s Security Summit to build on the messaging around their new Spark Enterprise of Things platform they had announced in September at their London event, highlighting new strategic relationships and applications that have already developed from Spark. BlackBerry also had clearly defined objectives for their Partner Summit – objectives which they appear to have met.

Richard McLeod, VP of Global Enterprise Software Channel at BlackBerry, said that BlackBerry had three objectives with the Partner Summit.

“We were previewing much of the message and content being delivered, along with insights on how it will help them make money,” he said. “We think it’s important that partners know the messaging well before the customers.  Charles [Eagan, the Chief Technology Officer] delivered the Spark message for them, and did more of a deeper dive, including how it all fits together and how it’s a part of our evolving platform. That was piece number one.”

The second objective specifically related to Canada, and recent leadership changes involving that particular market.

“The second part was to give them visibility and interaction with our new sales leadership,” McLeod said. “Trevor [Marshall] has taken over in Canada as Vice President and Managing Director Canada Enterprise Sales, with new sales leaders working for him. Having an opportunity to hear directly from them in a panel environment was a key goal.

“The third goal was to aggressively stress the channel emphasis, and the amount of billings that go through the channel,” McLeod indicated. “Carl Wiese [President of Global Sales] spoke, and reinforced the commitment to the channel. We also laid out the new sales program around applications and layered on top the four verticals where all this plays.”

In explaining the messaging, Blackberry reviewed the strategies for the coming year, to the partner audience, which was a fairly balanced group of both ISVs and solution providers.

“It was about a 60-40 ratio of solution providers to ISVs,” McLeod said. “It was a hugely application-centric group, focused on workflows. The solution providers provide the broader market for the ISVs, and it all plugs together in the BlackBerry Dynamics Container.

“The container is an evolution of everyone’s understanding. Our container was part of the Good acquisition about three years ago. But what we are all about now is working things into secure workflows rather than just secure devices. To do that, containerizing becomes critical, along with the SDK capability and over 100 ISVs writing to that. We carry that one step forward with our channel program. Four months ago, we announced our BlackBerry Applications Professional accreditation, and we have 29 partners who have completed that. It’s the top of the food chain around workflow and business transformation. “

BlackBerry also discussed how the new Spark platform meshes with existing BlackBerry offerings.

“The key to Spark is BlackBerry UEM and 100 per cent of that is available today,” McLeod said. “You can’t get there without UEM. It’s all managed by the UEM platform, so in some ways it’s a rebranding of our current platform. It focuses on the strength of the platform as a Communications Platform-as-a-Service. Everything you invest in today is 100 per cent leverageable into a future Spark platform. Nothing is being thrown away to create something new.”

A focus was explaining the sales plays around the road map.

“It is focused around four particular verticals –finance, government, legal, and manufacturing,” McLeod said. “Legal is the one that wasn’t so common in the past. Folks are increasingly aware of confidential documents needing to be circulated, and the need to control what happens to that document, and prevent them from becoming emailed and forwarded. This is also good for keeping track of billable hours, and for retaining records.”

McLeod said they specifically related this to enablement activities.

“Partners always desire more enablement, and we laid out a number of things we are doing to satisfy that, with more money and more margin,” he indicated. “The money is in services and managed services and cyberconsulting, and having differentiation. Where there is mystery, there is margin. We emphasized a route to significant differentiation and value. They wanted more communication, and building stronger teaming with the direct sales team. We knew that coming in, and that was a core part of our agenda.”

So, how successful was BlackBerry with its messaging? McLeod said that Kent MacDonald, Senior Vice President of Strategic Alliances at Calgary-headquartered solutions provider Long View Systems, came to the event as something of a BlackBerry skeptic, and attended mainly because he knew McLeod well from his days at Cisco.

Kent MacDonald, Senior Vice President of Strategic Alliances Long View Systems

“The event was a game-changer for me,” MacDonald said. “I arrived  with an awareness of their products and left understanding their architecture and passion, and with an excitement  to accelerate  Long View’s  role to introduce and enable their business impacting solutions into our end user community.”

MacDonald said that he had concerns about BlackBerry’s roadmap coming to the event, and stressed that the articulation of the strategy around Spark addressed his concerns.

“I am now a convert,” he said. “Their Spark offering offers a value proposition that complements our Microsoft Azure and Office 365 offerings with industry-leading security to deliver a differentiated user experience. Their sales leadership also stressed that BlackBerry is committed to the channel and can only capture the full potential of the market with a focused partner strategy and program.”

These kinds of events are designed to generate partner enthusiasm and excitement, and in MacDonald’s case, it was clearly successful.

“I am truly excited to be partnering with BlackBerry,” he said. “They raise the bar on security and incident management. I’m proud to be a BlackBerry partner as I wouldn’t want to compete against them.”