The event went virtual as did every conference in 2020. While everyone struggles with the overdose of online events, it’s still important to learn what’s new. So until in-person is back, it is what it is…let’s dig in with Sean Forkan, Country Manager, Peter Near, National Diretcor of Technology and Tara Fine, Country Channel Leader, to get the inside scoop on what happened at VMWorld from a channel perspective.

Sean’s opening comment on this year’s VMWorld conference, “It’s different and it allowed many more people to experience the event who would normally not attend because of the usual costs and time but the human in-person random interaction was certainly missed”.

I think this sums up most virtual conferences today. That said, most companies are trying to get innovative. VMWare included some yoga breaks after sessions. Depending on how long this new digital-only period lasts we may see more interesting things to come. Everyone, including us are experimenting with all sorts of ways to better engage virtual attendees. See a previous story I did on 10 things we learned.

Peter Near was also impressed with the company’s ability to pivot way back in February when an employee meeting was flipped from in-person to virtual within a week. “It went well and better than he expected. We do drink our own champagne”, he said. As most employees started to work remotely, VMWare was well prepared as they had all of the necessary tools and systems already in place to have a smooth transition.

Tara Fine talked about the way people are adapting to better absorb information today in a virtual environment and the benefits of having so many more employees being able to attend. The attendee reach seems to have expanded far beyond that of the traditional in-person conference.

The theme that stood out was about serving their customers better. Instead of pushing products, focus on what problems the customer is trying to solve and bringing together the tools from multiple business units to do it.

The initial work-from-anywhere growth was obviously exponential at the beginning as people went home and the trade off was less security. Since then, the focus shifted on revisiting the remote infrastructure and beefing up the security and performance challenges. As people look deeper in the big picture, they are ensuring that the users get everything they need to do their jobs as good as if they were back at the office.

VMWare calls it “Workspace One” that encompasses performance access to apps and data but also securing the edge devices to prevent cyber attacks. Pushing everything to the cloud is still the name of the game but approaching that at scale and in more effective ways is where the innovation is taking place.

What will the new workplace look like for business? VMWare’s experience may give some indication. Currently, their policy is to allow a maximum of 25% to return given the safety regulations. However in reality, the number heading back to the office taps out at 10%. The reasoning can range from people just not feeling comfortable coming back until it’s safe with an effective vaccine to simply preferring to work from home. Even then, it will most likely be a hybrid where employees rotate days in and out of the office or time shifts. The key will be flexibility.

While this may be the new reality in work, the implications for HR can be quite challenging. How will people connect with each other, the pressure on the company’s culture and management styles will all be transformed. There are a lot of new moving parts for HR to manage when it comes to a remote workforce. The elephant in the room may be how easily jobs can be shifted to offshore or any in-country location with remote-working being the new norm. Jobs no longer depend on the employee’s proximity to the office.

VMWare has been leading the charge in doing more with less hardware and remote access with virtual desktops. They continue to pile on more technologies, some through acquisitions like Carbon Black and more recently SaltStack, to offer more configuration, compliance and automaton functionalities. It gets complicated with hybrid and multi-cloud environments and so they have to widen their portfolio.

Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMWare, kicked off the virtual VMWorld by painting the big picture on how businesses are rethinking everything in these times and the company’s role in this digital transformation. You can check out his keynote at their website.

VMWare is uniquely positioned to lead the charge in the digital-first economy and what they are doing on the bleeding edge may ultimately benefit all of us. Judging from all of the announcements made at VMWorld, it seems like they are on top of the job.

That said, there are still some massive challenges to overcome. For example if the relationship between seller and buyer is limited to the device’s screen in a digital-first world, the business competitive differentiators can easily disappear as everyone catches up with technology. How will every business compete if they are all working remotely and doing business online?

Since March, we have moved from getting everyone to stay connected and do work remotely to now where we are tweaking performance and protecting all devices from cyber attacks in a distributed work environment.

Cyber may be broken as it seems that most companies are still reporting breaches and while much has been done to plug the holes, the cat and mouse game continues with hackers. VMWare is looking to crack this nut with something called Extended Detection and Response. They are taking all of the various components that they have inherited from sources like Carbon Black and combining with what they already know about the end points, networks and workloads to rethink protection from a holistic perspective. Monitoring and tracking threats and proactively intervening to disable before it causes damage seems to be the end-game.

Tara wants their partners to ensure that the various VMWare solutions fits with their strategy and their customers. It includes sustainable digital transformation, security and any-cloud. They are also looking to have their partners collaborate with their key capabilities to solve more of the customer’s problems. The outcome is about scaling the customers for life value through their partners to build a more successful ecosystem.

VMWare has also been engaged in deeper conversations over the past 6 months with their channel partners as they look to improve their ecosystem. Finding the sweet spot so everyone works better together and in a more productive manner. As they inherit new partners through acquisitions of other companies, how will these partners play in the same ecosystem without stumbling over each other.

Peter ended by thanking their partners and talking about the massive amount of technology advancements that came out from VMWare over just the past year. 2020 has accelerated the digital transformation and VMWare is doubling down on this mission. You can get all of the technology enhancement details on their web site and partner portal.

Sean’s last comment firmly identified the channel as the key to their success and while VMWare always had good intentions, they will be moving beyond intent to action. Moving beyond the transactional partners to include all of the partner ecosystem to better engage and manage the lifetime of the customers.

Tara wrapped it up by saying “We want our partners to know that we hear them loud and clear and we are already taking action. Partners want more predictability, profitable, protection, a simplified process and help to enable them to better market and sell the VMWare portfolio, so that will be our priority”.

Check out their web site and follow the links to check out more of what happened at VMWorld 2020.