BlackBerry COO on the renewed focus on partners

TORONTO – The shift to enterprise software for BlackBerry has brought about an entirely new focus on the company’s partners.

Beard, who held executive positions at Oracle Corp., SAP division Sybase, and cloud call centre firm LiveOps Inc. before joining BlackBerry, sat down with to outline the company’s shift to software and the enterprise. BlackBerry’s focus now lies in security, software, and automotive operating systems, rather than hardware.

In part three of our Q/A with Beard, he discusses BlackBerry’s dive into the automotive industry and the success the company has had with QNX.

This is part three in a three-part interview.

Part 1: BlackBerry COO on the company’s new direction with its hardware

Part 2: BlackBerry COO on the company’s dive into the automotive industry

The following is an edited transcript. How important is the channel to BlackBerry?

Marty Beard: Channel is a big focus. We brought on a management team that to really focus on it. We knew we couldn’t just come in direct. So we brought in some really experienced people like Richard McLeod, to drive that. Richard is from Cisco, and they’re a channel company. He reports to Carl Weise, who is head of global sales, and is also from Cisco. Also very channel-centric. That’s helped grow it, but we have a long way to go because we’ve come from a non-enterprise channel area. We’re basically in the first and second inning of the ball game on this.

Our management team is there. Our focus is there. There is some stuff we have to get better at like our partner portal online. That needs to be better. We know that and are working on it. We need to market to partners, let them know that we are here, and that we’re channel-centric and have the necessary programs.

BlackBerry COO Marty Beard

Let [the partners] know that they need to engage with us. Part of my job is managing marketing, and we have a whole partner marketing effort team where that’s all they do. Also developers. I need to get to the actual coders as well. What’re your big wins in the channel so far?

Beard: I don’t really have anything big. As far as the number of wins in the channel in Canada, we’ve had about 34 new partners this year that bringing us close to about 200 partners in the region. I’d have to look back and see what we’ve announced as far as big wins.

Remember, for us we have what we call the partner pyramid, so we have our strategic partners are the top, and it’s not a large number, but they’re really big companies that play across the entire wheel, like Microsoft, Google. These are players we want to have a strategic relationship with, in a lot of different parts of the business. CEO to CEO level type stuff. That also includes companies like Guiliani Partners, where we have a unique relationship in there. They’re focused on cybersecurity and we are too. They’re focused on a very limited set of very big accounts, and so we put that into our strategic partners.

Then there are ISVs – application partners. Concur. Anybody with apps, and we want them to build on UEM or embed our technology. Then there are VARs – all the resellers of our technology, of which we have 1,300. Then if you’re looking at the pyramid in terms of numbers, at the very bottom the biggest number would be developers. That’s kind of the way we look at it. There are also systems integrators like an Accenture, but not that many there. You said earlier you want to work with ISVs and channel partners (with the opening up of the BBM Enterprise Cloud). Will this be a mutually exclusive approach where there is a specific plan for partners and another one for ISVs?

Beard: We do. Richard basically has the channel focus, and I’ve got a team that focuses on the application partners. Which is really more about enabling. We want them to build on our platform, use our technologies, etc. That’s a little different. In some limited cases there is a reseller relationship as well, in very limited cases. But all of that is part of the BlackBerry Partner Program. If you’re a partner and you’re an ISV, come in and you’ll be sent in this direction. How would you describe your ideal channel partner?

Beard: If they’re strategically focused in the same areas that we are. In other words, they’re calling into the enterprise and have relationships with enterprise buyers that are focused on their mobile environment. If I was a channel, and I have this group of customers I am normally selling to, those customers definitely have mobile environments that they are focused on and investing in, and they also therefore probably have a need for mobile management and security. If there is enterprise focus and mobile focus then there is a reason for us to work together and talk.

If it’s more consumer focused and “older world BlackBerry” then we’re a little bit of a miss-match right now. We have priority regions where we are very focused on as a company. Canada is one of our major priority regions, and that means I have partner infrastructure here to actually handle them versus some other region where someone might ask where their BlackBerry rep is. So if it lines of strategically and regionally then it’ll be a fit. Keeping the shift in BlackBerry branding in mind, is it a similar message to channel partners if a potential partner only knows BlackBerry as this smartphone brand?

Beard: It is. We need to educate them about what we are doing. To my first point about making sure we are strategically aligned – this is BlackBerry. Carl and Richard, a lot of there time is doing that. The good news is that we are excited about the growth because it’s playing out well. Someone may say, “I didn’t know you were doing that. I thought you were going to be calling to talk about devices or something different.” 

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Alex Radu
Alex Radu
is a Video Producer for IT World Canada. When not writing or making videos about the tech industry, you can find him reading, watching TV/movies, or watching the Lakers rebuild with one eye open.

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