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Salesforce Channel Boss Talks Partner Enablement, Program Expansion

There's room for 250,000 skilled resources in the Salesforce partner ecosystem.

Lynn Haber

November 9, 2017

6 Min Read
Q&A

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Lynn Haber

SALESFORCE DREAMFORCE — The Salesforce partner channel is growing rapidly and the company sees room for another 250,000 skilled resources. It counts about 18,000 partner attendees – made up of ISVs, consultants and system integrators – at this year’s Dreamforce event, which wraps up Thursday in San Francisco. Overall attendance? a whopping 171,000.

We caught up with Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh, senior vice president, partner and industry innovation, to talk about the partner landscape at Salesforce, its channel program, and how the company caters to its two distinct partner types and brings in new partners.

Channel Partners: Tell us how a single Salesforce partner program caters to two distinct partner types.

Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh: We have one partner program called the Salesforce Partner Program, but the features and what each partner type desires and needs is a bit different.

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Salesforce’s Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh

When we look at our partner types, we have ISVs and consulting partners, sometimes called SIs (system integrators). But when you think about that spectrum of ISVs putting apps on the AppExchange, thinking about it as 100 percent of IP (intellectual property) and content, and then you go to the other end of the spectrum, where you have a consulting partner and you can say at the very extreme there’s zero IP — they give you a custom statement of work and you, our client, exactly what you want, tailored to your needs.

So that’s the spectrum, and what we’re finding is that instead of zero and one, there [are] a lot of steps in between now. A lot of consulting companies, due to economics, find that if they do the same things a few times, they develop IP, as in a methodology, a process, and it may not turn all the way into a full-blown app that can be put on the AppExchange — but we found other ways to package solutions that are built upon our clouds. We talked about it in the keynote, something called Lightning Bolts.

If I’m a consulting partner, I can take my Bolt and put it in the Bolt store available on the AppExchange, but also, if I sit down with a client in financial services, I could show them the Bolt – for Wealth Manager Engagement, for example – and maybe that could be 50 percent of what the client needs, and you build on from there.

Bolts are a foundational set of reusable IP that can be repackaged in different ways across a broad spectrum. That repackaging is something that our ISV partners are used to because they think of things in terms of product. Our consulting partners aren’t quite there; some of them are – such as our biggest consulting partner Accenture, [it’s] also an ISV – but our partners can work in any way they chose to.

This has been a change for us, coming from having two partner types and thinking that one needs this and the other needs that — and now we find there’s a blurring. We’re finding now that a straight ISV wants to …

… work with consulting partners who can make up a larger part of a solution.

CP: Where is Salesforce going to find more partners?

NT: Our existing partners are growing and are trying to meet the growing demand [in the market], which is why we have broad learning-based platforms, like Trailhead, and workforce development initiatives.

… We’re looking to add partners in specific areas. We don’t recruit on a broad-based manner for our consulting partners … it’s about quality, not quantity. We believe that consulting partners should be skilled in particular industries, geographies — especially outside of the U.S. where we don’t have as much presence. Or they’re skilled in a particular product — we’ve done acquisitions over the past couple of years and sometimes partners come into our ecosystem through an acquisition, so clearly they know the product that they’ve worked with. But in the Salesforce world, our customers don’t think about products — they think about solutions and solving problems or some transformation that they’re trying to accomplish. We offer very specific enablement depending on what strategy a perspective partner is looking at.

We do have a broad-based recruiting campaign for ISVs because we want more apps on the AppExchange. We work with startups, incubators – we have our own incubator – and we work with [venture capitalists] to get Salesforce as an application for the cloud more well-known and adopted more widely.

CP: Talk about partner enablement.

NT: On the ISV side, we have a substantial cohort of technical evangelists because the relationship with an app developer is very much about our development tools, how you get up and running … so that dialog is very technical or product development oriented.

On the consulting partner side, it is hard for a partner to cover our entire Salesforce Cloud spectrum. So we want to sit down with a partner and say, “You’ve done a lot of Sales Cloud and there are add-ons to Sales Cloud that you may be interested in learning about.” Then we focus on that kind of enablement for the partner.

From the enablement side, the biggest change in the past couple of years has been the creation of Trailhead as a global learning platform for the company, our customers, and our partners. With Trailhead, which is self-service, gamified, on-demand and super fun, you can find content from very specific product content, where you can write lines of code and have it checked, all the way to content around …

… how to hire in a diverse manner, how to recruit military veterans, how to overcome unconscious bias … so there’s business-level content to deep product content. Trailhead is a game changer in our enablement platform.

On top of that, we have a team that’s focused on implementation best practices and helping our partners sell with Salesforce so that it’s very partner custom content geared to a very specific audience.

CP: How do you cater to Salesforce partners attending Dreamforce?

NT: We have a partner lodge where many of the 18,000 attendees will pass through. We try to make the lodge a very specific experience for partners, not only in terms of learning, but networking and meeting up with each other and learning from each other. So the lodge is a social space, the keynotes are steamed live, and we have the programs team, tech evangelists, and technical teams to answer questions live.

We have about 100 sessions there just for partners. We also do this thing called “Brain Dating,” where someone suggests a topic that they want to discuss, and they can go on this platform, log on to schedule a “Brain Date,” and anyone can sign up. There are about 400-500 Brain Dates set up to meet at the partner lodge.

CP: What’s top of the agenda for you and the partners?

NT: The three things we’re focusing on going into the beginning of our new fiscal year are: workforce development, enablement and alignment with the customer-success team.

I also talked about building solutions, as in Lightning Bolt. But the key thing for us is around industries and going to market by industry, and making [sure] partners are clear on what they’re good at and what they want to focus on.

Partners need to specialize. They need to look back at what they’ve done and come to me with their area of focus. And we make sure that our team knows your area of focus. It could be geo, or segment, or industry or product. A partner needs to have a story that’s very clear.

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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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