OpenText lays out channel plans for the year ahead

Jennifer Kerr, OpenText’s VP, Global Channels & Alliances, talks with ChannelBuzz about the company’s initiatives with partners going forward.

Jennifer Kerr, VP, OpenText’s Global Channels & Alliances

TORONTO – OpenText just wrapped up their Enterprise 2019 World here. The company did unveil a flood of new product enhancements – over 500 to the portfolio. No new enhancements to the partner program were announced,  however, and no new partner initiatives were put in place, although some were telegraphed.  The company did, however, discuss its plans to better drive sales alignment with partners in the year ahead.

OpenText has a hybrid go-to-market model where the majority of sales are direct, but the channel business accounts for a significant minority.

“About 40 per cent of the business is resold in some way,” said Jennifer Kerr, VP, Global Channels & Alliances at OpenText.

Kerr is an OpenText veteran who spent ten years as Director of the Global Partner Program, the number two job in their channel hierarchy that handles the more routine tasks of program design and the management of five separate channel teams. She was promoted to the top channel job last year when Patty Nagle, who had been in that role, was promoted to SVP and CMO.

The channel is a fairly large one, about 1200 strong, but it is also quite segmented.

“The core EIM [Enterprise Information Management] business is quite high value, but other businesses are more turnkey,” Kerr indicated. This includes the RightFax fax and document delivery software that came in a 2008 acquisition, and the security business which was also acquired, principally with forensic security vendor Guidance Software in 2017.

While OpenText has made a lot of acquisitions, and some of those had channels, the number of partners ultimately added through them was rather less than the number pre-acquisition.

“With Guidance, we ultimately had about 60 partners onboarded, which is less than what they had,” Kerr said. “We don’t want a lot of partners. We want high value partners. We always do clean-up when we do an acquisition. If we brought in all the partners from companies that we acquired, we would have another 0 on that 1200 number.”

The partner monitoring process remains rigorous throughout the entire lifecycle of the relationship.

“We do annual review cycles with every single partner who is in our program,” Kerr said. “Should they be promoted? Should they be demoted? Do they even exist any more?”

A core message to the channel at this event was that partners should expand into new opportunities in logical adjacencies.

“Many partners came in through acquisitions and stayed there because that’s where the comfort network is,” Kerr said.

Some solution areas that OpenText sees as high growth have few partners selling in them.

For example, with the latest version of OpenText Business Network Release 16 being announced at the event, Barrenechea asked how many of the assembled partners sold Business Network during the Partner Summit keynote. After peering among the crowd for a bit, he managed to identify about five hands up in the audience.

“I’d like you to learn Business Network,” he remarked. “It is a fabulous opportunity as companies digitize.”

“Business Network is actually one of the easier areas to add because it is a managed service,” Kerr said. “We actually do the work. The partner just needs to know how to position and sell it. For a Business Network partner who wants to get into content, that would be a bigger investment. AppWorks is a developer tool, so learning that is more foundational knowledge.”

Barrenechea emphasized during Partner Summit that OpenText is investing heavily in expanding its direct sales force, doubling it over the next five years so that they can cover all of the Global 10,000, up from the third or so that they can reach with the direct force today, Kerr stressed, however, that this shouldn’t cause partners concern.

“Our AEs don’t own the relationship in those accounts,” she said. “They are a conduit for holding the partner in. That’s why the alignment with partners is key, and why we are placing such emphasis on that. The field needs to be engaged with partners and do account planning so we can be aligned in accounts.

“The seamless alignment is with our named partners – that’s seven GSIs and about 150 named partners, but not all of those would be part of that,” Kerr added. “The AEs are given their accounts to cover and will ask for the channel to fill the gaps. The partners have the specialized skills. If an AE needs someone with a FinServ background, they will pull them in. That’s why AppWorks is such a big play for us. It will help us get more solutions built, with partners help us extend into verticals where we don’t play today.”

The partners who will be involved in this tighter relationship have not yet been finalized. Kerr indicated that they have not yet solidified the names.

“Reach out to our salespeople, to your managed partner leader,” said Chris Sargent, OpenText’s APJ Regional VP. “Open the lines of communications so we can manage the accounts together. Account mapping and strategic account planning is where value is.”

“I don’t know that we have ever talked as much with partners about account coverage as we have this year,” said Gary May, OpenText’s North American Regional VP. “Our enterprise sales people will have accounts in their batch they don’t have bandwidth to cover. We strongly encourage you to start working with them on this, as we talk about which accounts we can cover and which we will leave partners to cover.”

“The other partners who do not become part of this alignment will keep on doing what they are doing now,” Kerr added

On the programmatic event, nothing new was announced at the event, although some initiatives are in the process of development. The partner breakout sessions at Partner Summit emphasized making more extensive use of tools that already exist, including using the Deal Desk Portal, and showcasing their own IP solutions on Application Marketplace.

The big new program on the way is a developer program around AppWorks. That’s under the purview of Chris Ditchburn, OpenText’s Senior Director of Engineering, and ETA isn’t completely clear.

“We are keen on getting this out as soon as we can, as well as other programs,” Kerr said. The identity of those other programs remains shrouded in mystery, as something Kerr doesn’t want to identify just yet.

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