Disruption is not confined to end user companies: IT resellers also have to transform their businesses in light of digital transformation.

By Kathy Gibson

“Our customers are going through a major disruption, and partners need to be able to supply the solutions to help them through this,” says Jean Philippe Barleaza, vice-president: partners and alliances: EMEA at VMware.

“We have been working with our partners to broaden their product and solution portfolios; and we have seen strong adoption.

“But they are in transition as much as their customers,” Barleaza says. “We are all in transition.”

VMware’s channel operation has spent a large part of 2016 engaging with channel partners. “We all understand our common objective; and 2017 will be a major execution year.”

The company offers solutions and services across cloud, mobility and security, Barleaza adds, and there is a good opportunity in these areas.

NSX, for instance is the fastest-growing infrastructure product in history, and has earned more than $600-million to date.

“VSAN is also seeing great momentum, with 5 000 customers, and is also one of our fastest-growing solutions.”

AirWatch, meanwhile, was named as a leader by Gartner in June this year, and continued to expand its market share, he says.

“This has been an important year for us,” Barleaza says. “We have spent the time to understand customer needs; and helping partners understand it’s not just about selling products, but embedding solutions in their practices so they can land naturally in the customer base.”

In Africa and South Africa, the channel is undergoing changes as well, and a new breed of reseller is starting to make a mark.

Matthew Kibby, regional director: sub-Saharan Africa at VMware, explains that the channel business has been spun out of the general business operation, increasing the focus on partners.

“What we are seeing is that the channel continues to evolve along with the products customers are asking us to take to market,” Kibby says.

There are a wealth of new opportunities as network virtualisation and storage virtualisation both drive growth, he adds.

“The channel is evolving with the product set. There are new partners coming into the ecosystem; and existing partners are also evolving their businesses.”

Any concerns that the VMware channel might be affected by the Dell/EMC merger have been put to rest, Kibby adds, with a strategy in place that the VMware channel will remain completely separate.

In fact, VMware itself will continue to operate outside of the Dell Technologies group. “We are part of Dell Technologies, but we operate independently and will continue to do so,” Kibby says.

“We haven’t been delisted and are still publicly-funded so there are still shareholders to whom we are accountable.”

VMware has strong relationships with most hardware vendors, and these are just as important after the merger. “These relationships are very valuable to us and we are not going to let go of them,” he says.

“So we will support our OEM vendors the way we have always done. And, on a parallel path, we will identify and bring into the ecosystem new partners who have the skill and ability to bring the new products to market.”

If there are any changes in the channel, he says this will evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

“We are relying on the channel a lot more in terms of driving business for us, particularly in certain areas of the business.”

Kibby points out that VMware is a 100% channel-led business in the region, and has a great relationship with its resellers. “In all my years in the IT industry, I have never met channel partners like we have at VMware. They really are an extension of the business; and, because all of our business is indirect, it gives them ownership of their own business.”

In fact, VMware is enjoying comfortable growth in the African region.

“Despite the depressed economies in many of the regions we operate, we are seeing significant growth year on year,” Kibby says. “And it’s still double-digit growth at this stage.”

A lot of the company’s success has to do with the VMware product set. The company is good at listening to customers, he adds, and giving them what they want to enable the digital transformation of their own businesses.

Skills availability is always an issue in the African region, but Kibby points out that VMware is a global organisation and, as such, has access to skilled people from around the world.

The company has also set up a graduate programme where young interns work for the company for year, with a view to retaining these young people as full-time employees afterwards.