Four months into his new role as country manager for Red Hat Canada, Luc Villeneuve has a clear goal – get more resources present in country to support the company’s partners.
In many ways, Red Hat Canada’s recent journey resembles that of its virtualization rival VMware Canada – a vendor achieves significant growth in Canada over a fairly long period of time, but to keep fueling that growth, it needs to evolve from a sales and marketing branch in Canada to more truly Canadian organization.
In both cases, the vendor involved chose a veteran executive to lead the charge, and one with a long track record in the Canadian channel. For VMware, it was former Microsoft Canada chief Eric Gales, and for Red Hat, former McAfee and NCR boss Villeneuve.
“We’ve reached a size where it makes sense to have resources in Canada to capture all of the opportunities here. We’re large enough to have full-time marketing and other full-time resources. We’re at the right point to make those investments,” Villeneuve said.
Two partner-facing roles are top-of-mind for Villeneuve. First, he noted that the company does too much of its management of Canadian ISVs out of the U.S., and he’s aiming to change that by bringing aboard a new person to manage its ISV and embedded partners. Similarly, the company needs a Canadian manager overseeing its technology ecosystem and OEM partners.
“We’re doing a good job of building these relationship and value propositions North America-wide, but in Canada, we’re a little bit too far away from the business sometimes. We need to be able to run the ball independently in Canada, while still taking advantage of the good work done by our counterparts in the U.S.,” Villeneuve said.
On the more traditional channel front, Villeneuve echoed Red Hat’s bigger message from its North American Partner Conference earlier this year that it needs to invest more in partners who are more invested in it. Right now, there’s a core group of 25 or so partners that represent the top of the pyramid for Red Hat in Canada, and Villeneuve said the company is going to “re-align our resources to focus” on that group.
“We need to protect their investments, through the form of teaming agreements, through having ways to leverage our joint resources together,” he said. “We need to leverage the partner relationship and reassure them that we’re going to protect their investments.”
Getting the right resources in place will help greatly with that. While early in his tenure he’s had the all-important “first meeting” with all of his top partners, he said having more resources on board means more opportunities to have additional meetings and to allow both sides to stay up to date on each other’s businesses.
“It’s all about training the partners, workshopping with the partners, and implanting the first projects together. There’s a lot of cross-pollination we need to do,” he said.
That’s especially true as Red Hat brings a broader array of offerings into the channel, expanding from its core business as the face of Linux in the business environment to also include cloud, virtualization, management and storage software offerings. In each of those cases, the company needs to get its key partners on board, excited and invigorated.
And even among other products long core to Red Hat – such as its JBoss– there’s a lot of work to be done in getting partners that represent Enterprise Linux to also represent its middleware stack. And vice versa.
“The middleware piece is a big opportunity with a lot of money spent by the end user, and our value proposition is very solid. I expect this part to do well for is. Cloud is very good too, but maybe a little bit behind the middleware cycle,” Villeneuve said.
“We play in a three-dimensional view of this, and there’s a lot of questions and a lot of demand out there,” he said.
And Villeneuve made it clear the company intends to keep a fairly small sales force in Canada, pouring more of its new resources into training, enabling, and supporting its partners to help reach a broader array of opportunities.
“We’re going to grow the channel, and we’re going to do well with the channel, no doubt,” Villeneuve said.