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David Dwyer has been navigating consolidation and merging channel programs for the last 10 years, which presents some interesting challenges.
May 17, 2018
Meet the Channel is a recurring Channel Futures column that leaves the C-suite and focuses on how channel trends impact the day-to-day job functions of employees “in the trenches.” This week, we sat down with David Dwyer, who has been tasked with the integration of partner programs from different companies for more than a decade. How is the rapid growth of consolidation in the channel impacting global channels readers? How do you mash disparate programs and cultures together? And how have the typical partners program directors talk to every day changed in the last 10 years? Dwyer tells us all about it.
The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Kris Blackmon: So let’s start at the very beginning. How did you get into the wonky space we call the channel?
David Dwyer: The wonderful world of the channel. I’ve been in the channel in some capacity for a little over a decade. I was working for a company called Patchlink, a security point solution based in Scottsdale, starting around 2004. In 2007, a venture capital company called Clearlake [Capital] picked up PatchLink, as well as SecureWave, a company out of Luxembourg with a big presence in Europe. They bought a bunch of scanning technology from Harris Corporation, and also bought [a security company] out of Texas.
So they took these four organizations and mashed them together. My boss, who was the head of worldwide marketing at that time, came to me and said, “We’ve got all these disparate partner programs now. We’re a global organization, and we need somebody to come in and tie these programs together, make some sense of this.” So then we needed to build out the programs, operational aspects, marketing and so forth. I was director of global channel marketing and operations for that company, which had been rebranded with one of these made-up names, Lumension, and did that for about five years.
I left for a stint in 2012 for a channel vendor, a through-partner marketing automation company. I was their VP of marketing for a couple of years. It was the typical dot-com startup, go in, get the shares. Wonderful ride, great people. They actually had the base technology that was used by Ingram Micro for all of their marketing activities with their top-tier vendors. Very cool technology, but unfortunately Ingram didn’t bite on buying them, and they ran out of venture funding.
I came back to an iteration of Lumension. While I was gone, Lumension was mashed together with a company called FrontRange Solutions to form a software company called Heat Software. They brought me back in to stand up a managed-service practice, specifically taking our technology out through the MSP market. That was in mid-to-late 2015. On New Year’s of 2017, we were informed that Clearlake Capital had done another acquisition, buying LANdesk, which had a number of organizations under it that it had acquired over the years. They pushed those two together and, again, had to come up with another new brand. That’s how Ivanti was born a year and a half ago.
Ivanti is 17 different organizations that have been pulled together. There [have] been 10 acquisitions in the last two-and-a-half years, so they came to me and said, “You’ve got this managed services program you started developing out at Heat. We want you to do that within the broader context of Ivanti, taking the disparate MSP programs from companies like Heat, LANDesk, etc., and building a global MSP program.” That’s what I’ve been doing for the last year.
KB: That’s quite the ride. Talk to me about how the landscape has changed in the decade since you’ve been in the channel.
DD: Back in 2007, I was dealing with more traditional VARs, whereas the last two-and-a-half years, I’ve been dealing with MSPs. Totally different animal. I’m at our annual Interchange conference and have a few hundred partners here having so many conversations with what we call ESPs or traditional resellers, traditional VARs that want to implement our managed services program. The programs I was building back then that were, I guess, “cutting edge” would have things like capturing revenue and pushing back dollars for these guys to invest in their local market, automated systems to allow them to do marketing to local markets, rebate programs, portals for training and learning management so they have on-the-fly training, those kind of things — which are now are a given.
It’s completely different with an MSP. An MSP sort of walks the line between a customer – because they’re buying and consuming our technology – and a partner who’s using that technology for an end customer so needs some different enablement, tools, programs, etc. Everything we’re focused on is trying to make it really simple and flexible for the MSP model. What I find is these MSPs are often quite small, and very, very technical — started usually by technicians, staffed by technicians, consultants, IT experts. They don’t have as much of a business acumen in terms of sales, marketing and things of that nature. What we’re trying to focus on is to make it really simple to access our technology through flexible licensing models, simple “pay as you go” pricing models, and then layer that on with tools and programs that allow them to get trained very easily and quickly, get the support level they need, 24×7 high-touch personal support, just things that allow them to address their markets.
KB: You’ve been through so much consolidation in this market, which is really ramping up. How do you navigate pulling together all these programs and handle the integration of partners?
DD: The past year-and-a-half has been really interesting. When I came in and they wanted to pull together a cohesive, global MSP program across all of these different brands, each one had their own flavor, their own version of how they did things. There was some overlap, but a lot of it was unique to each organization and brand. It presents challenges culturally to tie together individuals. The program is actually the easier part to tie together. The pricing models — I was able to consolidate on one standard way of delivering licenses, one set of SKUs and MSP price books. Obviously you have to work with all of the different stakeholders across the organization to get that all together, but I found that was actually the easier part of the process.
Trying to get people across different brands to let go of some of the ways they’d been doing things and jump on board the new model is a little bit more difficult, but it’s working pretty well. Some people are used to their licensing model, the way they’ve priced it out, bare minimums, whatever it might be. We can’t survive having five disparate programs for different reasons, so we had to make some hard decisions.
KB: What are the major pain points you hear from partners?
DD: For MSPs, it’s all about driving efficiency. What they’re faced with is a scarcity of resources, especially in certain areas — security being one of the bigger ones. They’re looking at anything we can help them with to try to drive efficiency, and a lot of that is around finding a single source, or reducing the number of vendors and solutions they have to manage. They’ve got these consultants, they’re paying out dollars to them, and they need to keep them active and in front of clients. They’re tasked with having too many UIs to understand, too many servers to manage, too many agents out on their customers’ desktops, and frankly too many vendors to manage. A lot of it is trying to consolidate around solutions, instead of having a separate product for security, for discovery, for service desk or whatever it might be. A lot of our MSPs are crossing into other areas we offer so they can have one source for these different solutions. We have large MSPs that have historically been coming through one of the brands using 50k, 100k licenses. But they’re seeing that under Ivanti, we can offer your patch solution, for example, or your discovery, or your automation. All these different things tied together under one organization and one platform. It’s been pretty attractive.
Head of Channel Communities, Zift Solutions
Kris Blackmon is head of channel communities at Zift Solutions. She previously worked as chief channel officer at JS Group, and as senior content director at Informa Tech and project director of the MSP 501er Community. Blackmon is chair of CompTIA's Channel Development Advisory Council and operates KB Consulting. You may follow her on LinkedIn and @zift on X.
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