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Our partners continue to quickly adapt to a distributed workforce and the evolving business needs of their customers– showcasing multiple opportunities for partnership and collaboration and reflecting on what it means to be a true ‘partner,’ particularly during these uncertain times. This week, Rich Steeves talked with Jamison Nack, Vice President of Sales at AHEAD, in a virtual ‘coffee chat’ to learn how AHEAD is meeting customer challenges with innovative solutions.

This 2020 VMware Americas Partner of the Year for Services is leveraging their partnership with VMware to manage business continuity and helping to ensure they have the right skills to support their partners. Once the new Cloud Native Applications Master Services Competency is launched in July, AHEAD will be one of the first partners globally to be recognized at the Principal level in VMware’s new Partner Connect Program across all six IT pathways.

 

True Partnership

As one of our most sophisticated and capable partners, AHEAD has built upon its partnership with both VMware and Dell/EMC, well-positioning themselves to focus on their customers’ most pressing needs and priorities. While all businesses are adjusting and changing their business models to fit a new reality, AHEAD has been able to use this time to double-down on customer care and focus.

AHEAD’s ability to bring complementary, non-competing partners to stitch solutions together, along with their services expertise, makes them unique in the industry. For one of their large enterprise customers, AHEAD collaborated with VMware, Dell/EMC, and a handful of non-competing partners to build what they called a “self-healing mobile application.” According to Jamison, “There still isn’t one that can do it all in terms of that digital transformation – although VMware is very close to being full ‘turnkey’ for our customers. We believe we’ve built that arsenal of partners: the best in the business to be able to accomplish those types of transformational engagements. And it’s working.”

With VMware’s major transformation of its partner program ecosystem to Partner Connect, Jamison believes one of the most important benefits of the new program is the recognition of AHEAD’s investment into VMware.

“It’s a significant investment for us to achieve six Master Services Competencies, and it’s paying off. What we love about the new program is that VMware is reciprocating the partnership by having a mantra to make sure that your field teams are engaging our experts who have invested.” – Jamison Nack

Another impactful element of the new program for AHEAD is the emphasis on teaming agreements. Jamison confirmed VMware’s focus on driving teaming agreements has significantly increased the size of every deal where AHEAD has a teaming agreement in place. Proactive engagement from VMware has been critical in ensuring success when driving ELAs (Enterprise Licensing Agreements) and large transformational deals

As a result of these partner program changes, and the acceleration of AHEAD’s business, they were already able to hit their first-half number even during this challenging market. “We’re excited about that – and that wasn’t a small number either!”

AHEAD is also working to make sure that they are 100% aligned with the Dell Technologies ecosystem, working to incorporate Dell teams into their conversations. They are hosting Quarterly Business Reviews with Dell rep involvement, discussing VMware holistically. Emphasizing the complementary portfolio between VMware and Dell is a benefit for AHEAD, helping to drive a three-way agreement effort with Dell/EMC, VMware, and AHEAD offerings to their customers.

“We would not be nearly as successful as we are if we weren’t aligning the Dell/EMC teams with the VMware teams. Making sure that we are all in a room together talking about the holistic strategy. Making sure that everybody understands what the right solution is for the customer and what the right fit is for us in our business. The vast majority of our opportunities have stemmed from those three-way interactions between Dell/EMC, VMware, and AHEAD. Those big deals would not be happening if we’re not all aligned.” – Jamison Nack

 

Cross-Pollination

From a partner ecosystem standpoint, AHEAD is on track to be one of the first to achieve its sixth Master Services Competency, once Cloud Native launches, positioning them as one of the Partner Connect elite partners at the Principal level in at least five IT pathways. Jamison believes that this positions AHEAD as one of the most qualified partners for VMware reps to collaborate on customer opportunities.

“There was a lot of talk about VMware field teams looking for partners that have those skillsets to engage proactively.  And we are seeing that happening. We continue messaging to our teams to highlight the number of Master Services Competencies we have and the work we put into getting those, as well as their skillset and capabilities. We’re seeing the VMware teams being very proactive with us in terms of leveraging our skillset. That’s evidence of a strong partnership.” – Jamison Nack

Partners like AHEAD were ready for the disruption of the standard way of doing business with the talent and capability to support rapidly changing customer needs and requirements, making them well-positioned to respond to those needs and accelerate their business. Aside from heavy investment from a services perspective, one of the things that differentiate AHEAD is their technical leadership.

Jamison shared their technical community is eager to learn. They are proactively blogging and engaging in trainings without having to be prompted. This cross-pollination offers a network of different practice areas that collaborate daily around the right fit for AHEAD’s customers, helping them accelerate their digital transformation initiatives.

“When our customers see that we’re bringing in a variety of industry experts and they hear what we know and what we’ve done for other customers that may have similar challenges, the message resonates, and I know it’s going to continue to do so.” – Jamison Nack

 

Building Faster with Tanzu

With the launch of the Cloud Native Master Services Competency in July and the overall integration of the Tanzu portfolio, Jamison believes success is about building software faster and helping customers release software faster. According to Jamison, this is the key for customers to truly drive revenue-generating applications and significantly increase operational benefits to their business.

“That’s what that portfolio brings to us. We’re finally seeing customers eager to have that DevOps (software development and IT operations) conversation. They want to know how we can help them not only build software faster and build better applications faster but also manage those applications.” – Jamison Nack

From Jamison’s perspective, this allows their customers to easily run on different clouds and more easily maintain and update their applications. “Applications are the lifeblood of any enterprise, so getting closer to those application owners is critical to our business,” Jamison asserted. “We also have an enterprise monitoring and analytics practice, which helps us once those applications are launched. Helping our customers manage those applications better and determine the overall performance and enhance that performance – that is what the portfolio has brought to us.”

 

Sharpening the Ax

In times where being together with partners or onsite with customers is impossible, many are taking advantage of the opportunity to get back to basics with investment in technical sales skills. And although the way everyone does business has changed, AHEAD continues to see a steady demand from customers. Jamison told us they haven’t seen a slowdown—and in fact, have noticed activity levels increasing and customers engaging more so than they have ever been.

“We’re also doing a significant amount of virtual EBCs (Executive Briefing Center). I thought that was going to come to a screeching halt, but we see a lot of success around virtual EBCs helping our customers set the strategy for what the future is going to look like.” – Jamison Nack

Jamison and his team at AHEAD have used the past few months as an opportunity to reflect on their overall business, revisiting projects that were put on the back burner and diving deeper into their partners’ product offerings. More specifically, they began a training series every Tuesday and Thursday called ‘Sharpening the Ax’ to help improve the knowledge and skillsets across the sales team.

“We were amazed at the response to this, just taking the time to ‘sharpen the ax’ as we call it – get better at our skills in terms of what our partners’ offerings are and how to position them. We had a session where VMware addressed our entire sales team. We also had one on VMware Tanzu recently. We’re very excited about it.” – Jamison Nack

Jamison acknowledges that there is a demand for the new normal, particularly looking at increasing operational efficiency, sparking discussions around automation, the VMware portfolio, and how to be more efficient and effective without having to be on-prem. This demand has led to acceleration of timelines for longer-term transformational projects, as well as some deferred projects and some completely new transformational initiatives and opportunities. As for the spike in demand for product services, Jamison does not see that slowing down anytime soon.

“Our forecast for the half, we’re projecting well over 100% of the plan that we set in January. Our technical reps have seen the same levels of activity, and they are not slowing down. To me, that’s a leading indicator – seeing the activity of our technical teams.” – Jamison Nack

AHEAD is also spending a significant amount of time monitoring their Q3 and Q4 pipelines for any fluctuation, working very closely with their VMware partner business managers. As it stands, this analysis shows a strong Q2 as well as forecasting a strong Q3.

“We saw a spike, and we do not see a slowdown. Our customers are continuing to look for ways to innovate.” – Jamison Nack

With the VMware Tanzu offering and other additions to the VMware portfolio, this stronger overall value proposition has helped AHEAD become a ‘one-stop-shop’ for their customers. They are now able to offer a full ‘turnkey’ solution to their customers – from basic infrastructure all the way to re-platforming the application – which further emphasizes their role as a trusted advisor.

For additional opportunities and targeted promotions that AHEAD 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