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It took Gavin Jolliffe and his cloud consulting and managed services business, Xtravirt, less than 48 hours to get to a steady state once the lockdown began. “Like most businesses, we didn’t have any notice.  Yet, as you’d expect, flexible working was already part of our business DNA and with modern technology and a cloud foundation we were very quickly able to adapt to new working practices”.

Rich Steeves’ virtual ‘coffee chat’ this week with Gavin Jolliffe, Xtravirt CEO, offered some insight into how the company has adapted their customer focus to help bridge gaps and become part of the ongoing customer lifecycle.

 

Removing Risk and Complexity

Xtravirt moved quickly to optimize internal and customer communications, from a deeper adoption of MS Teams and video calls to hosting regular town halls that focused on understanding the impact of COVID-19 – not just on their business, but on the enterprises they support.  They quickly came up with a plan to move forward and evolve.

As Gavin Jolliffe, CEO explained “Xtravirt is listening, learning, and digging deep into the challenges faced by our customers.  Understandably, many well laid plans have ‘gone out of the window!’ The notion of many customers continuing to drive a major transformation while focusing on survival and day to day operational challenges is unrealistic.  During the first few weeks of lockdown, we ensured that we continued to drive in-flight work and gave customers capacity to set their ongoing priorities.”

For the most part, Xtravirt is now focusing on the problem at hand. How they can help customers be productive and connected as a team. According to Gavin, it is critical to ensure that when engaging with customers, they acknowledge and are reactive to priorities which can rapidly change. A couple of Xtravirt’s retail customers literally shut down overnight with their future still unknown, and they are not alone. With some businesses clearly struggling, Xtravirt has paused some of its engagement efforts and plans to revisit them later in the year.

Xtravirt remains ready to support organizations as they adjust to a ‘new normal’.  With new and complex challenges to overcome, the role of a trusted professional services partner is perhaps more needed than ever.  VMware’s re-vamped partner program, Partner Connect, was rolled out earlier this year. Putting Master Services Competencies at the heart of the program has made it easier for VMware customers to find professional service partners with the validated expertise and experience required to assure digital transformation success. The Partner Connect program has also enabled a stronger co-selling model.  Xtravirt has worked with VMware on many co-sell opportunities, bringing joint expertise and experience together to drive the best possible outcomes for customers. Gavin continues, “That’s why we’re here! We invest the engagement cycles and take that risk and complexity away from our customers to accelerate them towards achieving their outcomes.”

 

Opportunity and Challenge in Equal Measure

 “We look at our customers and the wider business community and celebrate the frankly Herculean efforts they have put into adapting existing capabilities to support the urgent business need to survive as working practices changed overnight. Many of these were not strategic decisions, they were the rapid technology deployments based on what was available quickly” – Gavin Jolliffe

During the unprecedented events of the last couple of months, the ‘normal’ considerations  for project processes including governance and compliance will have had to take a back seat –– but Gavin expects that this won’t last long, noting that “if you do something too quickly there is a significant risk that it may not be sufficiently robust to support long term adoption.”

“We are working with customers to identify and work through these risks. Businesses are relying on these solutions to support their workforce and daily operations and need to recognize that this is an onward journey from the initial reaction to meeting lockdown requirements. Supporting the strategic discussion as to what may be required in the future, can include health checks to identify areas to shore up and strengthen short term fixes, or proposals to replace them with a more suitable solution.” – Gavin Jolliffe

Internally, Gavin’s team use a four-step framework to characterize the journey and using this they can look at the situation through the eyes of a customer to align and think like them. By moving beyond typical risk structures to consider operational resilience in the light of this pandemic, they start to answer some initial questions:

  • What does this mean for how we adapt our business practices in the short and long term?
  • What options are we going to test and trial?
  • How can we measure effectiveness to ensure that we are on the right path?

“Once businesses start to understand their ‘new normal,’ they can move out of their short-term stabilization phase, identifying the changes necessary to drive new growth away from the old world. We can then work with them on the solutions and capabilities needed to support this new reality.” – Gavin Jolliffe

Gavin believes if they apply this thinking with their customers, it’s possible to talk to them about the structured journey and offer solutions that will help eliminate the fire drill response in the event of future challenges.

Understandably, this is more difficult for some of Xtravirt’s customers. Where they don’t have an existing company or in-country infrastructure already in place to adapt or quickly extend, they may use this as an opportunity to move to a more centralized or cloud-based model. Gavin states that although that they can quickly achieve an initial baseline capability, it is key to ensure that this aligns to broader strategy. Deciding how to deliver applications, define an appropriate data model and apply the necessary security framework, while providing the business with scalability and cost control takes time and requires a structured approach.

 

Becoming Part of the Ongoing Lifecycle

Xtravirt’s drive and focus has meant it has achieved something that only a few VMware partners in the world have also achieved – attaining the full suite of VMware Masters Services Competencies.  This determination and commitment of Xtravirt to understand how VMware solutions can be used to empower customers and allow them to thrive in an ever changing digital world has resulted in some notable success stories and earnt the business some appreciated recognition.

This year alone, their Cloud Platform Transformation success has earned them two VMware awards, including a prestigious 2020 Regional Partner of the Year Award.

“We never take our success for granted,” commented Jolliffe, “recognition like this gives Xtravirt a healthy ‘shot in the arm,’ driving the team to continue its pioneering path.”

One example of this happens to be one of their largest and most complex NSX-T deployments of 2019. Xtravirt delivered a solution for a Fortune 1000 global HCM software provider, taking NSX-T and making it multi-cloud enabled.  They worked to ensure that the customer would be able to get the best out of multi-cloud migration and peer protection over East/West traffic without the massive investment in multiple firewalls and all of the heavy-duty infrastructure that they had before.

“For us it’s being able to understand a business’s priorities and required outcomes and apply these to the architecture principals of modernization and technology advancement – ensuring that these stay strongly linked, not just in the design but also during delivery and on into day to day operation and managed services .” – Gavin Jolliffe

Gavin also notes that CEOs are coming back into strategic conversations with Xtravirt. This is increasingly focused on ensuring long term benefit from transformation and other investment programs. The desire to drive internal IT to support higher value business priorities has also resulted in the growth of Xtravirt’s Managed Services portfolio, the next generation of which is scheduled for release over the next quarter.

Managed Services are also resonating with companies who have had to adapt and change quickly, not just as a result of lockdown, but also following legislation changes in the UK which have led to efforts to reduce contractor reliance. The urgent need to have trained staff to support new and extended solutions is crucial to prevent these becoming a ‘new legacy,’ and legislation has created barriers for organizations to bring in high-level, skilled staff from the contract market and retain them for the long term. Xtravirt Managed Services is able to fill these gaps, reducing key man dependencies and becoming part of the customers’ ongoing lifecycle.

One of Xtravirt’s current customers is a global industrial software business that has recently completed a significant merger along with several rolling acquisitions, leaving it with a very distributed IT organization. It was imperative for the company to be able to understand and standardize the assets available, as well as to become more agile to support the needs of 4,000 developers around the world. Xtravirt’s journey with this customer started 18 months ago, designing a strategy to provide the flexibility and agility to be successful alongside the capability to continue to grow and add more businesses into the portfolio by maintaining a common framework.

COVID-19 came along just as Xtravirt was getting into the crux of the deployment and what could have resulted in a significant delay became the most tangible proof point of the benefit of the cloud strategy.

As the business need went up 10-fold overnight, the ability to respond to faster adoption with agility, scalability, and flexibility demonstrated the robustness of the Xtravirt approach to be thinking about how to respond to future unplanned challenges.

“We accelerated the adoption phase for 6 public and private data centers across 3 global regions. Our customer could suddenly open the floodgates to the parts of the business crying out to get onto this common platform. We’ve got more demand in terms of migration and support services than we could have imagined, so it’s a great example of being able to accelerate.” – Gavin Jolliffe

 

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

When it comes to Partner Connect, Gavin pointed out that VMware has invested the time into listening to the partner ecosystem, and in fact, “Partner Connect is brilliant in the way it consolidates all of those learnings. It is very much a hub for us now.”

One of the key Program benefits Gavin calls out as especially pertinent right now is the ability to clearly show how Xtravirt is aligned to the strategy around ongoing engagement, value-add, lifecycle, and services-led thinking about the wider business proposition rather than just the isolated technology plays and benefits.

“Partner Connect does a really good job of actually identifying and qualifying the partners that are best placed to help customers. The ones that are experienced, the ones that are qualified, the ones that have gone the hard yards and invested, so you know their intent is true. You’ve got it – it’s there. The best thing you guys can do is shine a huge spotlight on it. It’s great because we know exactly where we stand, exactly what the paths look like… this is a customer tool. It’s there for them – that for me is key.” – Gavin Jolliffe

For additional transformation opportunities that Xtravirt is driving with their customers, please visit the links below:

For more information about Business Continuity efforts from VMware:

 

Rich Steeves
Sr. Director, Partner Programs and Experience
Worldwide Partner Organization
rsteeves@vmware.com