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My channel take: Alex Walsh, Veeam

How did Alex Walsh get to be running the UK channel at Veeam and what does he think about the current state of the market?

Most people who end up working in the channel got there through a process of personal and professional development. Examining individual stories provides an opportunity to share the routes that were taken to get to a career in the industry and inspire others to follow.

MicroScope was able to get an insight from Alex Walsh, manager of channels and alliances at Veeam UK and Ireland, about how he got to where he is and his take on the current partner landscape.

What does your role look like today, and how did you get started in the channel?

My role at Veeam is around leading a team that drives growth within our VARs, VADs and resellers in the SMB, commercial and enterprise sales divisions. I oversee the management of our Global Strategic Alliance partners, agreeing sales objectives and marketing campaigns to drive pipeline and revenue for the UK and Ireland region. I work closely with our partners and alliances teams to ensure that Veeam can meet their most pressing needs, and it is my responsibility to ensure that we know the best ways we can help them and their customers, and that this insight is reflected in our strategy as a business.

I got into the channel side of things when I started at AppSense and moved into a role as channel development manager in 2013. I was responsible for driving revenue in the Nordic region, working closely with sales and account teams internally, as well as speaking to partners throughout the entire sales process – keeping them updated on the product and features roadmap. Much of what I learned then I still use in my role today at Veeam. 

What advice would you have for others who want to get started in this sector?

Veeam conducts 100% of its sales through the channel, and it is a similar situation for lots of other companies. Being involved in such a critical business function makes for a fast-paced and challenging role, so it’s the perfect area to get into for anyone looking to test themselves and, most importantly, learn.

The channel business is also about being able to work effectively in teams, and having strong interpersonal skills. It is as much about the people as it is the technology, if not more so, and you’ll find yourself working with a huge array of different contacts, internally and externally, every day. Being a good listener,as well as being able to find common ground and ways to work towards joint goals, is critical.

How do you think the pandemic has changed the priorities for the channel?

We’re all familiar with how the pandemic has speeded up efforts around digitisation because of the restrictions it has imposed. Many of the remote and hybrid working practices that these mandated will be permanent. It’s been a real wake-up call for businesses in terms of realising just how valuable their data is, and how mission-critical it is to protect it.

That’s been expressed in the surge in demand for things like IT services and associated software and hardware. The IT channel couldn’t be in a stronger position to demonstrate its value, and when it comes to our work at Veeam, we’ll be continuing to serve in that mediation role – enabling our partners to help customers modernise their data protection strategy in order to keep operating, collaborating and creating new opportunities in the face of these challenges.

What opportunities does digital transformation present?

Partners and vendors ultimately come together to solve challenges for customers, and especially when it comes to what we do, a lot of those challenges come down to digital transformation. Every business is generating more data than it ever did before, and protecting, managing and harnessing that, so it can be an asset rather than a burden, is something that the channel plays a key role in being a trusted adviser.

The IT stack and data needs of organisations can vary wildly from one to another – and often we’ll see data stored in all kinds of different formats and locations that need to be protected. Customers are looking for someone they can work with to navigate the huge array of solutions that are out there to find something that works best for them.

On top of all of this, you’ve also got the threats to business continuity to grapple with – caused by everything from a lack of robust data protection, to legacy infrastructure. This is where channel partners come in, serving as an adviser to listen carefully to their needs and challenges, and work together on a solution that works right for them.

Where do you see the channel heading in the next few years?

The defining trend in the way products and services are being sold now – not just within in IT, but many other sectors as well – is through subscription-based models and anything-as-a-service (XaaS). The flexibility, as well as the ability to only pay for what you need as you need it, is highly appealing for many businesses – and they also like how there’s a channel partner or vendor on hand to help with any questions once a solution is up and running.

I think we’ll see a continued push towards this across all the ways IT – software and hardware – is sold. It’s a huge opportunity for partners, because it means they can start to build longer-term, ongoing relationships with customers, as opposed to closing a one-off deal and working to chase more elsewhere.

And as data grows in value and businesses become more data-driven, avoiding vendor lock-in is also a growing concern, as businesses need greater data portability. The data protection space will follow this trend, particularly as businesses’ backup, replication and disaster recovery requirements grow at scale.

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