New Zerto channel leader looks to unite cloud and traditional channel teams in unified partner strategy

Jim Ortbals is looking to design a channel system that both encourages collaborative relationships between cloud and traditional partners, and effectively assesses and values the contributions made by each to a joint sale. The complicating factor is that he is aware of no one else who has done this effectively to date.

Jim Ortbals, Zerto’s Vice President of Worldwide Channel and Cloud Sales

Continuous data protection vendor Zerto has formally announced the appointment of Jim Ortbals as Vice President of Worldwide Channel and Cloud Sales. Ortbals, who joined the company on November 1, takes the reins at Zerto with a clear strategic objective in mind. He is looking to drive Zerto growth by getting better synergies between the company traditional resell partners, and their Cloud Service Provider [CSP] partners. While many partners have seen the value in this collaboration and already work together, Zerto’s channel organization has been generally unaware of these relationships, since these types of partners have been managed separately. As a result, recognizing and rewarding the right partner has been problematic in some instances.

Ortbals comes to the Zerto role with a strong channel background, with specific focus on cloud partners.

“I’ve been in the industry for 21 years, with most of that being in the channel in some form,” Ortbals said. “Ten of that has been at Cisco and VMware in their channel organizations. I was a little over seven years at Cisco in the cloud and managed services channel organization, managing service provider sales, and spending time with pioneering cloud providers. The last three years I was at VMware, managing cloud providers, many of whom are also Zerto cloud providers.”

Currently, Zerto manages traditional resellers and CSPs in one overarching program, but through two different kinds of agreements, one for the cloud and the other, traditional resell perpetual or term licenses.

The issue is that the lines are continuing to gray between CSPs and channel resellers,” Ortbals said. “The key development is not that all the VARs will become CSPs but that they are talking to the CSPs. We are seeing some VARs partnering up with some of the big cloud providers, and there is a lot of this kind of activity happening now. What I’m getting my arms around is how to bring consistency and singularity into a program where we see resellers and CSPs doing both of those things.”

What complicates this issue, Ortbals said, is the industry itself hasn’t developed a model yet to manage this paradigm effectively.

“My experience has been that this hasn’t been figured out completely,” he said. “These are things that a lot of partners are struggling with. Both sides want to work with each other, but how do we recognize their collaboration?”

Ortbals pointed out a common problem with the way these relationships are typically seen through the lens of vendor channel programs.

“In today’s channel models, a reseller doesn’t get credit for selling through a CSP,” he said. “The CSP is the partner of record, and the reseller is a couple of tiers down – even though it is really the reseller who drives the deal. So the numbers will show the CSP as the big producer, and thus they don’t paint the full picture in terms of these bigger partners. We want to determine the way to get a full view and see the full value, both on the CSP side and the reseller side. We want to tailor our Go-to-Market programs and incents and rebates to drive the right behaviors. I don’t think anyone has figured out how to do it yet. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. The benefit of being Zerto is we aren’t gigantic yet, so it’s easier to make changes, and I would rather introduce nimbleness earlier than later.”

In the short term, Ortbals said that this is being done through introducing partners, where Zerto is aware of the nature of the relationship.

“We are doing some of that today already,” he said. “Designing a permanent framework is a longer-term proposition. The challenge is to get it right, not just make changes. I don’t want to do things differently just because I’m new here.”

Zerto’s fiscal year coincides with the calendar year, so Ortbals suggested that Q1 of next year could well be a time when changes reflecting the goals could be rolled out at a programmatic level, given the strenuous nature of the changes he wants to introduce.

Ortbals has already begun to implement complementary changes to Zerto’s own sales organization since he came on board four months ago.

“We have had two separate sales organizations for these two businesses, with the one aligned on a sell with model, and the CSP being more of a sell-to model,” he said. “We have made some changes in the alignment of some of the teams from a structure perspective. The changes here have been purposeful to better drive things with partners. They are based on the premise that all execution happens locally. You develop relationships locally, and execute campaigns locally. We wanted to make sure, in organizing our channel resources, that each field sales region had a dedicated channel account manager. In the past, we had multiple people call on different regions. That worked when we were small, but it became an issue as we got bigger. So now each channel rep owns a particular region, and all execution is local. We have got the foundation right from that perspective and we can build on that. I expect to see excellent returns from that alone.”

The programmatic changes are the next step.

“We will see those outward-facing enhancements put in place as we look to 2020,” Ortbals said. “They will be more significant than tactical things.”