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Thales driving channel integration after Imperva addition

The channel chief at Thales talks about the benefits of prioritising talking to the partner bases of both vendors with a single voice

When a vendor completes an acquisition, the message to the channel is that it will remain business as usual, with integration or programmes coming further down the line. Apart from the encouragement of the fresh cross-selling opportunities, everything tends to look very familiar to the channel.

Recognising that the channel drives the business, the focus was different at Thales after it acquired Imperva, with the integration of its partner bases seen as key to the future.

Moves to map and then integrate respective channel bases started quickly, and the decisions to keep the best elements of the two partner programmes should appear in a united offering early next year.

John Polly, vice-president of global channel and alliances, cloud protection and licensing at Thales, has been driving a lot of those integration efforts. He recognises the benefits that the channel can bring to the business, with around 85% of its revenues coming via partners.

The acquisition aimed to expand the company’s portfolio, but Imperva also came with an established channel base.

“When we bought Imperva, it expanded our portfolio into data governance, data risk and analytics, as well as application security. So, it helped us move up the data stack, and it helped us to get into the application security space,” said Polly.

Since the firms came together, the focus has been on speaking to the channel with one voice through one team.

“The merger completed at the end of December last year. I got the opportunity to lead the new combined channel organisation, and we’re on an integration journey,” Polly said.

“One of the things we decided to do sooner than later is integrate the channel organisation, because we wanted one channel team to interface with our partners. Right now, we still have two channel programmes – we have the Imperva programme and the Thales programme. Our combined programme will happen in early 2025.”

The combined channels have expanded the base, rather than duplicated existing relationships, added Polly: “Before the acquisition closed, as we’re both leaders in data security, I made an assumption we had around 50% overlap in our partners, but actually we have 6,700 partners in the combined world and we have less than 10% overlap.

“When we looked at this acquisition, it wasn’t one of synergy or cost takeout, it’s about squeezing cost out to get the best manufacturing. But it was really an acquisition that expanded the portfolio. We’ve got 35,000 customers, 10% overlap. We’ve got 6,700 partners/resellers, 10% overlap,” he added.

There was even less overlap on a distribution level, around 7%, so Polly and his team have expanded the channel base through the acquisition, which the channel is being encouraged to take advantage of in the future.

“We’re building out the new programme to show the value of the other portfolio to these partners and say, ‘If you’re a Thales partner, this is why you want to sell Imperva, and vice versa’. And that’s working fairly well, even though there’s two different programmes, but we’ve got a lot of partners that are finding new opportunities and signing up for the other programme,” he said.

That unified programme will aim to provide the best of both channel programmes and support the development of both Thales and Imperva’s existing channel bases.

“We want to make it easy for for partners to do business with us. We have a couple of beliefs – one is that partners will recommend what they’re familiar with, so we’re doing a lot of work around enablement and education,” said Polly.

The second belief is to provide flexibility and choices for partners that provide selling options that range from traditional reselling to managed services and OEM relationships.

“We’re making sure that we allow partners to work with us the way they want to work with us,” Polly added. “Thales had a very mature ecosystem and a very good programme, and we got a lot of great feedback on it. Imperva also had a pretty strong ecosystem. It launched a new programme six months before we acquired it.

“As we put the programme teams together and said, ‘What are we going to do?’, the collaboration was very positive. I see us taking good things out of the respective programmes to create a new programme.”

Polly jokes that he is “at the tip of the arrow on this integration” and there has been a conscious decision by Thales to integrate the channel early.

He said the channel has been able to demonstrate to customers the benefits of the combined forces of Thales and Imperva, and has helped to signal where the product integration would improve life for users.

“That’s a pleasant benefit of going to market first with the channel before everything’s integrated. It’s helping us to find some answers that we’re spending time on,” he said.

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