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VMware Channel Chief Primed to Drive Digital Transformation

Hogan talks about bringing customer-for-life value together with partners.

Lynn Haber

October 2, 2020

7 Min Read
Digital transformation
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VMware channel chief Sandy Hogan joins the company at a challenging and exciting time. There’s talk of a spinoff from Dell Technologies. The ongoing pandemic is causing upheaval for businesses and unease for partners. And, yet, VMware appears to be well-positioned and is making strides with its own transformation. A VMware outsider, Hogan replaced Jenni Flinders, who left the company in June.

Hogan, senior vice president, worldwide commercial and partner sales, spent 15 years at Cisco. Her last job was global vice president, digital transformation group. She worked for a couple of years at Here Technologies after leaving Cisco in 2017. Then, she spent one year at Rackspace as executive vice president, Americas managing director, before taking the top channel job at VMware.

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VMware’s Sandy Hogan

If the times weren’t what they are, Channel Futures would be sitting face to face with Hogan at VMworld 2020. But, given the pandemic, our face-to-face is online. VMworld 2020 (virtual) just concluded, running Sept. 29-Oct. 1.

Hogan has thus far spent her tenure with VMware in her office. But that hasn’t stopped the new and vibrant VMware global channel chief. She meets with global partners and is digging her feet into her new role.

Channel Futures: As a way of introducing yourself to partners, elaborate on your leadership style.

Sandy Hogan: We’ve been working on this quite a bit as a team, with one of our focus areas around a partner-first culture. Of course, that piece is about validity of the programs and everything that we do, but so much of it is cultural. There are a few areas of my leadership style that I hope will transfer into a meaningful ecosystem development.

The first piece is the insatiable curiosity and the quest to drive areas of growth, and what’s possible. That’s important in this evolution. There’s no longer this linear way of solving for problems by themselves. I’m constantly asking questions – I’ve been on many partner calls today – and I’m pushing us out of the conversation of feedback on the program to where are [partners] investing. Where do they think they’ll see themselves in the next six months?

That “what’s possible,” and that type of questioning is important for us to see around corners. It helps us anticipate our partners’ needs and, not only where they plan to go, but if we do a good job of that, we can anticipate where they will go.

The second piece is that I’m a strong believer in what I’d call collaborative problem solving. That’s very internally-oriented, in that, I’m such a firm believer that the partner plays a critical role throughout everything in our organization. The partner is not a functional discipline; it’s a company discipline. I always feel like I’m a dot connector, figuring out how to better solve together to get to the answers. Everyone is already working a lot. Who wants to make it harder?

Third is having an engaged organization, but I would translate that to …

… the partner ecosystem as well. What I mean is transparency, openness and frequency in communication. It’s not about this perfect show, but it’s about iteration and progress, and always providing context.

That’s been a huge aspect of my time both internally and with partners. Just even giving partners small updates on the evolution of our strategy or asking them what they think about an idea we have. It gives people visibility into what we’re thinking, what we’re learning, and how to pull people along on the journey.

CF: There were many product announcements at this year’s event. As the VMware channel chief, help partners wrap their heads around all the news.

SH: At the center of all the announcements, if you look at VMware’s fundamental strategy – becoming the digital foundation in this unpredictable world and enabling any app from any cloud on any device – that’s one of the most important aspects to all of this. That’s because customers are in various stages of their digital journey and to be able to be in a position to help customers adapt, migrate and transform, no matter where they are in their journey, is very important.

So, when you look at the announcements we made, everything is centered on the further innovations that we’ve done to enable that strategy. So, from a partner standpoint – and this has been most prevalent in most of my partner conversations – is, partners are trying to figure out, how do I take all of these capabilities and wrap them in a way that I can understand the customer’s business objective? And, what are they trying to solve for so I can bring my technology expertise to the forefront?

I think rather than look at [the product announcements] as a long laundry list of separate innovations, look at it from the digital platform lens. Then, partners apply their capabilities to say, “How do I expand that further so I can be more relevant?”

Here are a couple of highlights that translate to some of that. First, Gartner says 75% of midsize and large companies will adopt a hybrid cloud or multicloud strategy by 2022. The importance of our partners to play a key role in that conversation is essential.

Then, you have the other part of that which is, Forrester says that 65% of those cloud decisions are being made outside of IT. That’s forcing the business-level dialog and it’s forcing the need for partners to understand the landscape of the customers to have that prime position in helping them migrate to this multicloud world.

CF: What are your top three priorities?

SH: I think what we recognize in this environment is that the partner ecosystem is no longer linear. It requires us to take a customer-for-life mindset in how we go to market together. And, the transaction, which is one of our core sweet spots, is how we work with our partners on building these technical services competencies and transacting business.

So we recognize that is a very large evolution that we need to make. We’ve identified four priorities.

The first is creating a partner-first culture. For us, as partner-friendly as we’ve been, to build a culture around partner-first means …

… how do we co-innovate, how do we co-develop? No one can solve the customer problem alone.

I really want partners to be part of the build in the evolution of the model, not just recipients of whatever the next program is. I believe that’s cultural, and also how we embed partners into everything from our product development to our marketing services and throughout the continuum.

Second is aligning to the value continuum. We just made an investment and created a partner life cycle services team. That is around aligning in everything from what that life cycle looks like and the types of services that are critical to bring customer-for-life value together. And then figuring out how partners play a prominent role; more specifically, whether those are skills they already have, new businesses that they need to invest in, etc. Additionally, it’s about linking everything from rules of engagement and incentives to thinking about additional competencies beyond technical services. So, for example, business transformation competencies that help partners have those early discovery discussions with customers on what cloud path they take. That will happen over time, of course, but it’s a clear vision that we have, and a priority.

The third objective is to focus on a solution-based connected partner ecosystem. What I mean by that is, how do we really drive a use case-based orientation with our partners? Meaning, whether its industry based, business processed based, like supply chain or customer experience, that we are connecting not only our franchise platforms, we’re connecting that into a broader business problem. And we’re enabling the partner-to-partner ecosystem.

The fourth that I’ll add, which is important as well, is scaling technology prowess. That’s about getting as much knowledge and technical expertise in the five franchise platforms we’re investing in. We want our partners to have the skill sets and the expertise. The more they do, the more they can position themselves as the digital platform. We’re going to double down on that further.

About the Author(s)

Lynn Haber

Content Director Lynn Haber follows channel news from partners, vendors, distributors and industry watchers. If I miss some coverage, don’t hesitate to email me and pass it along. Always up for chatting with partners. Say hi if you see me at a conference!

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