The gist of VMware’s new partner program has been public knowledge for many months, with the company emphasizing the depth of the program’s rethinking. While multiple programs have been harmonized into one, the Carbon Black, VeloCloud and Pivotal ones remain outside, but are not far off on the road map.
On Saturday, VMware formally launched VMware Partner Connect, the reboot of the company’s partner program. It reflects both VMware’s own move to services and cloud services, as well as their desire to integrate and harmonize the programs of companies that VMware has acquired. The restructured program is designed to integrate these programs in a way that lets partners structure their business with VMware in the most optimal way that works with their own business models.
Very little in the newly-launched program should come as a surprise to VMware partners. The essentials of the program and how partners will need to qualify for it were telegraphed almost a year ago..
“We are excited about this journey that we have been on for the last year,” said Rich Steeves, Senior Director, Worldwide Partner Programs at VMware, and the architect of the Partner Connect program. “We’ve been giving the direction of where we were going, with a greater weight on services and cloud service capabilities and deployment and consumption. At our Partner Leadership Summit last April, we announced that we would go on this journey because we needed to deliver a completely transformed experience for our partners. We are now unveiling it and onboarding partners.”
Steeves emphasized that partner input was central to the program’s reconstruction.
“We are proud of the fact that this is a program we have co-developed with our partners, through both partner councils and partner satisfaction surveys,” he said. “Partners told us what they wanted in our business relationship and we have delivered.”
Steeves stressed that this redo of the VMware partner program fundamentally transforms its design principles in order to equip partners to meet today’s customer needs.
“This is the largest transformation in the VMware partner ecosystem’s history,” he said. “In the past, we have had route to market-based programs that met needs historically, but in looking at customer needs and what they needed from us and our partners today, we needed to be bolder.”
The key element is bringing all of VMware’s partner programs together, and giving partners the flexibility to fit their business model optimally within the program’s parameters.
“This is the piece that I’m the most proud of,” Steeves said. “It has been a common story in the last 5-10 years, that when companies work to consolidate channel programs, that many have led to umbrellas where you have an overall brand but still have siloed pathways. With partner guidance, we have broken down all of those siloes and provided simplicity. They don’t have to think about their participation and what their tier standing will mean. They will enjoy full benefits. This says that we have one program, one contract and one agreement, so they can focus on what’s right for the customer.
Steeves noted that while in the past, many partners had 5-6 contracts across cloud, resale and professional services, they will move into a single contract.
“We needed to radically simplify the experience across partners’ VMware relationship, which extended across more than one program in the past, because we have looked to address and complete any application running on any device and any cloud with acquisitions,” Steeves added. “They asked for greater flexibility and the choice to choose the right business model for them. Creating the ability for partners to build practices in those areas has been a cornerstone of our design principles.”
Given that partners have had almost a year’s notification to qualify for the new programs, partners are not grandfathered from their level in their old primary program to the Partner Connect program.
“We are bringing together multiple programs, with multiple tiers, in which many partners had premier level designations,” Steeves said. “With Connect, we wanted to offer partners who were building practice areas consistency and predictability, to recognize investments they have made and a pathway for investment. There was upwards of 1000 partners at the top tier in our legacy programs. As we move to Partner Connect, just more than 200 have made the investments to qualify for the Principal Partner level. At the core, it’s that Principal Level that we recognize to provide highest levels with competencies.”
The program consists of three tiers, with Advanced Partner and Partner tiers underneath the Principal Partner one.
Steeves also noted that the Master Services competencies which are a foundation of the new program were unveiled 20 months ago.
“At this point, we have 300 plus who have one in any one area, and over 500 combined competencies, where we have validated their services offerings,” he said. “Partners have had the opportunity to certify. We put the criteria out so partners would be ready for the change when it happens. Given the time horizon and the deliberate conversations we have given, we feel it is time.”
Steeves emphasized that the new program also completely transforms the digital experience.
“We are retiring Partner Central and a new portal goes live, which is mobile-ready and persona-driven,” he stated. “In the past it has been a document repository. Now it will provide role-based content.”
A new Incentives and Development Funds portal provides enhanced dashboards and improved visibility for partners to track their activity with VMware.
“We’ve gone through a launch of our rewards portal which allows partners to better manage rewards and development funds, including managing renewal,” Steeves said. “The dashboards are now integrated into the single pane of glass so the partners can manage their business.”
The online VMware Learning Zone has also been rebooted into more of a partner university format.
“It now provides dashboards showing course competition and certification, which is personalized on their role within the company, and lets them customize learning plans,” Steeves indicated. “It shows how they manage rewards and how they manage skills.”
The most recent acquisitions will not be in Partner Connect at launch, although the road maps are there to bring them in relatively quickly.
“We are in the process of completing the integration between Carbon Black and VeloCloud, and they will integrate into Partner Connect in the first half of the year,” Steeves said. “Pivotal will be integrated in the second half of the year. We will offer a smooth onboarding pathway for all of them.”