Your first Channel job?
My first Channel job was in the early 2000s working at a small IT reseller in Buckinghamshire. We provided goods and services around IT networking, support and security for SMEs with a focus on financial services. It was a hugely varied role working with clients on simple supply requirements through to office relocations and network modernisation. It was a great learning base to understand how a reseller works and what’s important to them which I have used every day in my roles at software vendors.
How did you get into Channel management?
From my days working at a reseller, I became aware of the role of partner management and how strategically important it can be for a software vendor to build long-lasting and loyal partnerships. I also saw first-hand how vendors can alienate partners with choices around how they go to market. I then made the jump to Trend Micro through some contacts made whilst working at a reseller. Today, I find myself at Exabeam, a leader in security analytics and automation.
When executed correctly, a strong partnership model can extend the capabilities of a software vendor beyond its own resource pool. From sales and marketing, through implementation and managed services, partners can add reach and capability to a software vendor allowing them to grow more rapidly and ultimately deliver great customer outcomes in a scalable manner. A strong Channel strategy can be the difference for many software vendors between reaching their goals or not.
Best day in the job?
I genuinely enjoy every day in my role, but of course, some days are more challenging than others, and some are more rewarding. I think picking out a single best day would be impossible, but for me, the good days are when the results of a large effort are realised, whether that is a team project or an individual win.
Personally, the most rewarding days now are when members of the team get success through their hard work and we get the chance to acknowledge and celebrate their success.
Biggest change in the industry since you started your career?
The move to XaaS. Without question, whether that is infrastructure, platforms or software as a service from a vendor/manufacturer or that is partners moving to a managed services-driven business model to wrap value-added services around a core piece of technology. This shift is driving new and innovative solutions for customers, flexible budgeting models and ultimately significant improvements in customer success through increased loyalty.
What has been your most successful campaign?
There are too many to identify just one. Some were fortunate around timing and the messaging, but others were as a result of great planning and persistence. I believe the best campaigns in partner sales and marketing are multi-threaded in their approach and joined up between vendor and partner. Point in time activity and incentives don’t work unless they are part of a multi-touch campaign that answers three key questions: why will people want to listen, what are we trying to achieve and how will we achieve it?
The ‘why’ will usually encompass key customer themes about why they should change the status quo, but also equally important is why the partner should take up valuable customer airtime with your messaging. The ‘what’ has to encompass what do we want to achieve by running the campaign, is its pipeline development, customer engagement, awareness or some other measurable outcome? The ‘how’ will deal with the details of getting the outcome and is usually the campaign itself, what enablement needs to happen, what is the call to action, how will we reach the customer and how will we judge success. By answering these three things upfront, we can find the gaps in a campaign and add to it to make it more likely to succeed.
Tomorrow’s World – what are your predictions for the future of the Channel?
Predictions are a very dangerous thing, but I do believe the trends we have in the market will continue in the coming years and will shape the future of how customers engage with technology vendors.
I believe the as-a-service model will continue to drive the consumption of technology and services and will mean the traditional resell models will continue to be challenged on margins and relevance. As technology vendors get closer to customers, there will also be an increased requirement for partners to add significant value to both the customer and the vendor through knowledge, market development and managed and professional services to deliver customer outcomes.
I also believe the cloud platforms such as AWS, GCP and Microsoft Azure will become more widespread and customers’ IT functions will be less about owning and running technology, but more about creating value for the business in its use. Partners who can create that business-level value will thrive, partners who exist on reselling technology will struggle.
Then and Now – what is the one thing you wish you knew back then?
I think this is less about what I knew, but more about skills that you can develop. I think if I was able to give my past self any guidance it would be around these two themes:
Firstly and most importantly, this is a people business. Stay in touch with people but also build relationships and trust with people. Most people want to work with people who understand them and care for their success, by taking time to work on that we can build great relationships. Those relationships will then likely build success for both parties.
Secondly, have patience. Not many things of great value were built overnight. Working together as a team with transparency, trust and shared goals over time will build a stronger partnership. Instant success can sometimes mask deeper issues that will need to be resolved in time anyway.
James Anderson is Vice President, EMEA Channels at Exabeam having joined in July 2021. He is a 15-year veteran of the IT Channel, who has most recently spent time at Quest/One Identity Software, where he led global MSP, distribution and Channel strategy. Prior to joining Quest Software, Anderson spent eight years at Ivanti where he led the EMEA partner business through a period of significant growth for the company, launching a new partner program and consolidating multiple partner communities to grow partner-sourced deals and Channel cross-sell across multiple lines of business. Anderson started his cybersecurity career at Trend Micro, where he played a key role in creating a new partner ecosystem to address the crossover of virtualisation and security.
Visit James Anderson’s LinkedIn profile here