Nutanix increasing focus on joint field activity with channel partners

Nutanix is emphasizing consistency in overall policy following senior personnel changes, but indicated that joint field interaction between partners and Nutanix personnel is being increased, with new channel resources also being added.

Chris Kaddaras, SVP Sales, North America and EMEA at Nutanix

ANAHEIM – Nutanix has recently seen some changes at the top of their channel organization, with the departure of former channel chief Rodney Foreman. No changes are planned in the restructured channel program that Foreman introduced last year, however. Nutanix communicated to channel partners at their .NEXT event here that the change that will take place involves the field go-to-market activities between Nutanix’s own sales teams, and the partners who are part of every deal in the company’s 100 per cent channel sales model.

“The key thing will be in the operational relationship,” said Chris Kaddaras, SVP Sales, North America and EMEA at Nutanix. “There are no changes to our strategy. There are no changes to our 100 per cent channel commitment. There are no changes to our partner program architecture.”

The Channel Charter – Nutanix’s channel program revamp – that Foreman introduced last year fundamentally reshaped the company’s strategy in incenting partners. It reconceptualized the program to incent/push partners to move beyond HCI and develop cloud skills if they wanted to move above the entry level tier, which was rechristened Pioneer. The Scaler and Master tiers could not be attained just by selling a ton of HCI, but required following Nutanix’s investments in the cloud business.

“The fundamentals of that program are still in place,” Kaddaras said. “We will look to adapt fundamentals. Internally, we do need to rationalize our multi-product go-to-market, and put weight on ones we want to move. It won’t involve changes in the program structure, but how we emphasize certain products, and will continue to reflect where we need to go as a company.”

Vendors incent to segments of the market, Kaddaras stressed.

“It’s best at this stage for a hypergrowth company in a hypergrowth market to stay simple, and the easiest way to do that is by incenting products,” he said. “For example, adding Nutanix Files to deals drives benefits for customers by adding file system storage and removing the need for a third-art file server. Nutanix Calm provides the ability to automate some parts of our customers’ strategy – like spinning up VMs for the development community. We have an IoT cloud service today which we are not heavily incenting, but if we see more demand in the next six to nine months, that could change.”

Kaddaras emphasized at the channel partner component of the .NEXT event that the channel leadership change wasn’t based on a lack of execution.

“The sales changes we made were based on a joint decision by both the individuals and the company to change,” he said. “They are good people, but every company going through different stages needs different types of talent.”

The real change that Nutanix wanted to make here involved operational activities in the field.

“My philosophy, and what the company wants to drive going forward is that we go to market together as a team,” Kaddaras said. “There was a little too much ‘we enable you, partner, and you go one way’ and our field force goes another way. That is NOT what we want. We want the teams aligned. Our product is a transformational product. If I was selling a commodity-based product, I would have a different approach. The way that we bring value, we need to do things together with our partners.”

Nutanix had earlier made changes to the way their field teams worked with partners as part of an initiative to make partners less dependent on Nutanix’s own people in closing deals and doing installs.

“There’s a real nuance to that,” Kaddaras said. “We have been building all of our programs and training and certifications around enabling a fully independent partner community to sell in the marketplace, and we won’t pull away from that. Our goal was to get to the point where our own sales people in the field can work less cycles in the field. That remains our goal. But we don’t want to completely separate them.  I think we went too far in trying to separate the two teams from working together.”

Nutanix is also increasing the amount of resources it dedicates to supporting partner enablement.

“In the past, we haven’t had a very big investment in channel enablement from a people perspective,” Kaddaras said. “We are now building out an organization to be dedicated to partner enablement, and have been doing that for the past few weeks.”

New Jersey-based Comport Healthcare Solutions looks at the changes from the perspective of a newish Nutanix partner. Comport is heavily focused on HPE, which accounts for 90 per cent of their business.

“Nutanix was our first big foray beyond HPE,” said Jack Margossian, Comport’s president. “We have only been a Nutanix partner since last year’s .NEXT. If we make a product a core product, we invest in it so that we can sell it deliver it and support it.”

Margossian said that the structure of the program today supports Comport’s strategy.

“We are in the middle tier, a Scaler partner, and are working on becoming a Master partner,” he said. “We have also passed their services piece so that we can do services for other partners who have less experience with Nutanix.”

Margossian said that Nutanix is making training free for this year, and that Comport has taken advantage of this at .NEXT.

“We have another six months to take advantage of this,” he added.

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