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Riya Shanmugam Takes on Global Channel Chief Role at New Relic

For the second time in a week, a cloud company has appointed a woman as head of its channel efforts.

Kelly Teal

November 30, 2021

8 Min Read
Channel chief name plate

For the second time in a week, a cloud company has appointed a woman as channel chief. (We’re referring to Amazon Web Services last week naming Ruba Borno its head of channel.) This time, it’s New Relic hiring Riya Shanmugam as group vice president of global alliances and channels.

New Relic delivers monitoring tools in a SaaS model and distributes them through channel partners and cloud providers. The capabilities provide real-time and historical insights into the performance and reliability of web and mobile applications. Partners – including system integrators, managed service providers, professional services firms, consultants and independent software vendors – can then track availability and errors. New Relic integrates with Slack, email, and other third-party resources, too, so administrators receive instant alerts.

Throughout its history (New Relic came to be in 2008), the company has run a regional channel program. Shanmugam’s appointment marks the company’s foray into operating a global partner initiative.


New Relic’s Riya Shanmugam

Shanmugam, for her part, is no stranger to the channel. She comes to New Relic from Adobe, where she spent almost three years interacting with partners. Shanmugam started at Adobe as director, global customer and partner adoption, cloud culture transformation. She then moved up to senior director of global customer and partner strategy, adoption and success, all under Bill Staples, who now serves as CEO of New Relic.

Before Adobe, Shanmugam led customer engineering at Google Cloud. She also spent five years at IBM in cloud computing and mainframe roles. Shanmugam further has held technical and strategic advisory positions with IBM, AMD, Infosys and some startups. She earned her MBA MBA from the McCoy School of Business at Texas State University. She also attended the Leadership Academy at Harvard Business School Executive Education and the Stanford Graduate School of Business for Executive Education.

New Relic says it saw record channel sales in 2020. It attributes that in large part to work with Amazon Web Services and revenue coming from key MSPs including 2nd Watch, Rackspace, Slalom and others. As a result, New Relic recently made changes including switching to usage-based pricing, signing a five-year agreement with AWS and, of course, turning to Shanmugam to lead the channel.

“Enterprises of every size and industry are realizing that cloud-based observability solutions are powering modern business,” said Steve Hurn, chief sales officer at New Relic. “As we see increased demand from our customers in the Americas and abroad, engaging and working with the channel on a global scale will be vital to New Relic’s continued growth. Riya brings significant skills and experience in creating value for customers and partners through nurturing a culture of innovation. We’re thrilled to have Riya onboard to lead our next phase of partner and channel growth.”

Channel Futures caught up with Riya Shanmugam to talk about her new job and plans for the channel. The conversation that follows has been edited for brevity.

Channel Futures: Tell me more about this role. I understand you are not replacing a predecessor, that this is a net-new effort. Why was now the time for New Relic to launch a global partner program?

Riya Shanmugam: Our turnaround is complete, the internal transformation of changing ourselves into being a consumption-based business. Now we have to think about our next phase of growth. … There are not too many, or any, software companies that are growing at a global scale that hasn’t invested in the channel. This seems like the right time because …

… we are headed north and we are looking at how we invest in an ecosystem of people … who are going to grow along with us in this journey. … There are still going to be regional elements in every part of the world. However, there are a lot of things that we can unify globally — enablement, deal support, deal desk, finance, contracting. But every region will have the autonomy to do what’s right for the local ecosystem.

This is week [four] for me. I’m still going on my listening tour and understanding the status quo and state of the union across New Relic. Some regions are much more mature, some functions are working really well, and others need a complete revamp. That is all a work in progress.

CF: What drew you to the opportunity to become New Relic’s global channel chief?

RS: I used to run tech sales for Google Cloud and my job was to sit on one side of the table talking to a number of global CXOs that were considering Google Cloud. Then Adobe reached out to me. They were going through their own transformation to cloud and I thought, “I’ve never been on the other side of the table.” And Bill Staples … said, “We need a leader that understands cloud, customers and culture transformation to build that muscle within Adobe.”

So Bill and I had that relationship and when Bill moved to New Relic … I had a chance to connect with the leadership team here and it seemed like the right time. I have two young girls and as a mom, the time that I work is time that I take away from my kids, so work has to be meaningful for me. This role seemed to have it all — the passion I wanted to bring in, the great leader I wanted to work with and work for, and the challenge I wanted to take on.

CF: What is your leadership philosophy?

RS: I think of my role as a leader to simplify and set a vision and be really clear about communicating where we are set out to go. How we get there is something that we have to empower the next level of leaders to figure out. I have a responsibility to unblock where I can and get out of the way to get stuff done. The second part is it’s all about the people, it’s all about the team. You hire the smartest people and you trust them. I walk into any relationship with trust and it is up to you to break it. … People are everything and if you take care of your people and hire the right talent, magical things can happen. I have seen it time and time again and it’s worked beautifully for me.

CF: What changes are you planning for the New Relic channel program and why?

RS: One that’s already executed is that we now have enablement content that’s open to all of our partners. It’s the exact content that our internal teams are getting enabled on. We have about 1,000 partners and enablement was done differently in the past. But if we’re viewing them as an extension of the team, we have to …

… enable them the same way. We will be sending a big announcement to our partners.

Also, if you look at the entire deal cycle, partners are going to come along with us on this journey, if we simplify how they do business with us. … As we think about who we would lean in more towards, it’s more toward resale partners that are also service providers — MSPs,  GSIs, who have some very mature practices.

CF: It sounds like there might be some work to reconfigure compensation models from legacy volume-discount approaches?

RS: Yes. It is one of the things that we have to rework and it is something that I am focused on in the first 60-90 days. We are incentivizing our teams on consumption because we are a consumption-based business, and one of the things we need to do early on in this revamp is figure out how that plays into a partner’s business? … It is an evolution we’re going through as an industry. … It’s an inevitable thing, we have to do it, and it is happening.

CF: How does New Relic handle channel conflict between partners and direct sales teams? Anything there you intend to address?

RS: We will ensure that there is no channel direct sales conflict as we move into the future. We don’t see a whole lot of that because generally speaking, all of New Relic is standing behind the idea of wanting to make partners successful. But we are talking about how we make it very clear that there will not be channel conflict.

CF: What needs to stay the same?

RS: There are some regional differences that I see are working really well. Business in APJ, for example, has a lot of partner-led growth. They are working beautifully together with the direct sales teams. But what works in APJ may not work the same in EMEA or the Americas.

CF: What else would you like partners to know?

RS: When I think about the consumption-based business and where partners play a significant role, it is critical that our partners are both resellers and service providers. I strongly believe they have a stronger say and perspective on forecasting growth. Those partners get it. We are going to lean into resale partners that are also service providers – MSPs and GSIs – and we expect our partners to lean in with us.

CF: Other thoughts to add?

RS: I think of this as an opportunity of a lifetime for me. We are going to grow and partners will have a significant part to play in next phase of our business and I’m excited. I have an open door and I’m looking to hear more from partners.

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email Kelly Teal or connect with her on LinkedIn.


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About the Author(s)

Kelly Teal

Contributing Editor, Channel Futures

Kelly Teal has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist, editor and analyst, with longtime expertise in the indirect channel. She worked on the Channel Partners magazine staff for 11 years. Kelly now is principal of Kreativ Energy LLC.

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