The challenge for any channel leader at an established vendor is to take partners with the business as it evolves.
NetApp is positioning itself as a cloud-led, data-centric software company, and in transforming the business to deliver that ambition, it has also recognised the need to support partners that want to continue working with it as it develops its proposition.
To support and ensure partners are in the right place, NetApp is focusing on specialisations. Kristian Kerr, vice-president for NetApp’s Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Latin America (Latam) partner organisation, is helping mastermind the firm’s approach to the channel.
“This year is driving specialisation,” he said. “It could be around enterprise hybrid cloud with VMware, it could be enterprise application with Oracle or SAP, or investing significantly in building internal capacity around AI [artificial intelligence] and data analytics. [Plus] everything that we do around storage and cloud storage. It’s really about ensuring that we have adequate partner capacity to deliver on our priority sales plays and sales motions.”
Kerr said it was helping existing loyal partners take advantage of where the business was going by “supporting, enabling training and education, and building the right competencies into our existing base”.
As well as specialising in specific technology, NetApp has also been encouraging partners to focus on verticals, including healthcare, automotive, manufacturing and gas, with a range of AI and data analytics tools.
But inevitably, as the business expands, so does its appeal to more partners. Kerr said it was also open to adding to its channel base and would continue to increase the dedicated support it offered managed service providers.
“As our portfolio expands, we’re also attracting different types of new partners who focus on specific workloads,” he said, adding that connections with the large hyperscalers and enterprise application partnerships had also produced growing levels of interest.
“When I talk about expanding the ecosystem...this is really about us approaching [partners], and also partners coming to us because they’re hearing about what we’re doing in the cloud space. The other area which is growing is enterprise applications, like SAP and Oracle,” he added.
Kerr is also aware that once on board, there needs to be an opportunity for partners to interact and collaborate across the vendor’s channel ecosystem.
“We’re expected to start connecting the ecosystems as well. Because, I think, a few years ago a customer would select a partner and they would do everything in terms of all their IT requirements. I think there are very few partners that have that full breadth, so it’s about how we connect that ecosystem so they can come together to support and deliver on a customer’s business outcomes. That’s what we’re doing in terms of increasing partner capacity around the solution developments and our technology plays around industry offerings.”
Kerr is keen to arm all partners with the support they need to get deeper into customers and to make sure they are in a position to talk to all of the buying centres across a customer.
“We can access new buying centres across our existing accounts, and also use that as a lever to go out and acquire new accounts. How we build the right skills, capabilities, competencies to get deeper into the line of business,” he said.