Sean Forkan wants ‘channel first’ sales model for VMware Canada

After five months settling into his country manager role for VMware Canada, Sean Forkan is ready to get down to business on the three things he thinks all leaders should be accountable for.

He’ll be building a strategy with both near and long-term result targets, he’ll be building an operating model focused on the near-term results, and he’ll create the most engaged workforce possible. And the targets that he’s set up are likely to be high enough to cause some of his employees to look twice.

After talking with employees, partners, and VMware’s corporate masters, Forkan is setting pen to paper on a three-year aspirational plan that seeks to double the business done in Canada in the next three years.

“If we make the right investments and have good strategies and act as good partners, there’s no shortage of opportunities in the marketplace,” he says. “We’re starting to see good momentum in the country.”

Areas for growth

One way VMWare Canada will be looking to build that business is with what Forkan describes as a new “community of interest” that’s focused on the government vertical. Since the organization isn’t quite big enough to formalize a structure that’s so focused, a cross-functional team will be pulled together to focus on the specific channels faced by those customers. Eventually, a leader that acts as the face for that vertical business may be selected.

But first Forkan wants to hear from his government customers on how they can help.

“Given some of the initiatives they have, we think we’re becoming more relevant and today we’re not set up internally to optimize that,” he says. “We’re going to set ourselves up so we can align.”

For example, Forkan points to what his team has down with electronic health records vendor Epic Systems Corp. Thanks to a deal struck in 2013, VMware is the virtualization vendor of choice for Epic’s applications. That’s something to build upon as VMware embraces its role mediating organizations hybrid cloud environments, as they determine the right mix of what’s best to run on-premises or in a public cloud infrastructure.

This approach also matches what VMware is doing in the U.S. – its NSX application received an important certification for compliance with government security standards there June 19.

Longer term, Forkan even sees exploring a new route to market through Canada’s incumbent telecommunications carriers. VMware Canada is in the early discussion stages in regards to what a managed service provider model might look like for the virtualization platform.

Forkan says he’ll look for momentum behind where customers are choosing to purchase and deploy technology before making a decision on this.

“I think more customers will want to outsource,” he says. “The ability to attach ourselves to existing processses that these companies have will be the keys for moving forward.”

Channel collaborator sticks to what works

Prior to his new role at VMware, Forkan was the vice-president of sales for Central U.S. and Canada at Veritas, where he oversaw the software vendor’s split from security software firm Symantec Corp. Symantec had sold Veritas to The Carlyle Group for $8 billion. Forkan has also put in stints at other major technology sector brands Cisco and Oracle. One common thread that’s woven through Forkan’s career is his collaboration with the channel community. He says that will continue with VMware.

“We want to be able to give our channel partners confidence that’s where the VMware organization is going to show up,” Forkan says. “We want to have a channel first sales model.”

To do that, Forkan will introduce more transparency around when VMware will work with channel partners and when it will go direct. At the moment, it’s up to the individual sales representatives about when to bring channel partners into the deal. That’s going to change.

In talking with partners, Forkan heard that some of VMware’s portfolio was too confusing, particularly around networking virtualization. Or the partners were being brought into an account far too late in the process. So he plans to create a narrow list of big accounts that VMWare will be dealing with directly, and below that line, there will be a channel-led delivery of services.

The point is that partners invested in VMware will know what to expect. VMware Canada is going to be predictable in dealing with its partners, Forkan says, and it’ll be clear how they’ll be able to make money – especially around professional services.

Forkan says he plans to do this work in the second half of 2017, if not sooner.

Improving the culture

Finally, the new leader wants to bolster his organization as a great employer.

“If I can create a culture where 9.5 times out of 10 people are excited to be here, they’re going to perform better,” he says. “We’ve started to ask our teams what we could do better for them in terms of being a better place to work.”

Employees may see augmented benefits and more opportunities for professional growth. It will also see more company-organized activities to give back to the communities that VMWare works in.

Because sometimes being accountable is about more than being good at doing business, Forkan says. It can be about the business of doing good.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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