TSIA’s Anne McClelland: Leading the Drive for XaaS Optimization in the Channel

Leading the Drive for XaaS Optimization in the Channel graphic

Business model change has significantly impacted the channel. We’ve talked in depth about the role customer success plays in service revenue growth and how partners are critical to helping vendors deliver customer success at scale. Vendors that understand what’s at stake are spending a lot of time and money to bring their partners along on this journey.

Now, there is a channel leader who sits at the intersection of these two movements to help vendors better enable partners for transformation and optimize the channel for delivering “X” as a Service (XaaS).

Meet Anne McClelland, TSIA’s vice president of XaaS channel optimization research. Anne is working with TSIA member companies to guide them in implementing partner-led initiatives that drive incremental revenue at scale for XaaS offerings.

Throughout her career, Anne has built global partner organizations from the ground up, having worked for tech leaders like Blue Prism, Cisco, Red Hat, Microsoft and IBM. This experience makes her uniquely qualified to advise vendors of both the old and new economies through one of the most transformative times in the channel.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Anne in advance of TSIA’s upcoming Technology & Services World (TSW) event to learn more about her experiences as a woman in the channel, her observations working with the vendor community, and her thoughts on enabling partners for revenue growth in the services-driven economy. Here’s what we talked about:

Who in the channel has inspired you?
Gerri Elliott, Cisco’s chief sales and marketing officer, has inspired me throughout my career. She was my second line boss back at IBM and I followed her when she went to Microsoft. Gerri is really doing a lot to advance and support women. She started Broadrooms.com for executive women who serve or want to serve on corporate boards. As women, we come to the table with a different viewpoint and we often think about unintended consequences of decisions, beyond just the immediate. Gerri is inspiring women to trust their instincts and do great things.

In your experience, what makes a good partner strategist?
People driving partner strategy need to be good connectors. If you think about it, we are connecting companies to companies and building bridges and figuring out not just what’s in it for us, but what’s in it for the partner, too. It’s all about forming those two-way connections.

Where are vendors at in terms of partner strategy and scaling customer success?
I’m seeing companies at all different stages in this journey. There is a spectrum of partner models from the companies born in the cloud to the companies with hardware backgrounds and legacy partner models, and there are a lot of companies at various stages in between these two end points.

In this new model where revenue is achieved over annual recurring models, you have to think about the whole lifecycle of the customer. How do you help drive as-a-service offering adoption and create value for customers? How do you drive upsell and cross-sell through the channel? The new channel strategy for XaaS isn’t something that’s one and done, it’s a work in process that is in the throws of evolution.

What innovative things are companies doing to engage partners in XaaS?
Autodesk is an interesting example of a company that has nicely migrated their partner ecosystem into the XaaS world. They are driving software solutions as a service for very specific customer segments and engaging different partner types in creative ways. For example, through the Autodesk Referral program, anyone who refers a new customer to Autodesk, including a small business owner, can receive a referral bonus if it results in a closed sale. They’ve also thought about encouraging integration opportunities for partners to build IP around their offerings via APIs made available to complementary technology partners.

What is your best advice for vendors leading their channel partners into XaaS?
There’s a critical need for the vendors to truly get in the partner’s shoes and communicate with them, especially their most productive partners, about where the whole ecosystem shift is headed. Partners are not standing still. They recognize what is happening in the marketplace and they are thinking about how to grow their business and how to differentiate.

Competition is changing. We see over the top (OTT) change with AWS building out everything and anything you can possibly need. So, how does the current vendor partner ecosystem compete with that? It needs to pivot toward giving partners what they need to make money and what they require to truly differentiate the vendor’s product in the market to meet the needs of customers and deliver business outcomes.

What is the hardest change for vendors and partners in this new paradigm?
Ultimately, it’s all about the money for both the vendor and the partner. But partners need to swallow their fishes and make the investments in transformation, and vendors need to decide how they will help partners digest the fishes that they have to swallow. The vendors need to determine how they plan to invest and make it easier and more lucrative for partners — help them with the vision of partner economic engines surrounding their as-a-service offerings, and create differentiation and customer value. The winning approach is going to be a team effort across the entire ecosystem.

What steps should vendors take when building a partner engagement model for XaaS?
For companies starting fresh, they really need to dig in and revisit their channel strategy. This helps set very specific priorities for building a productive XaaS partner ecosystem and new engagement models around XaaS. The biggest challenge is making sure companies actually do the execution after creating the strategy. We’ve all been in plenty of meetings where we have this amazing workshop and everyone comes out of it feeling really jazzed, with a great plan. Then, nothing changes. Vendors need folks, like TSIA and Channel Impact, to help them create their new strategy and drive the execution of the strategy, including its tactics and measurement of success, because the vendors simply can’t afford to wait.

What can attendees expect at TSW in October?
We will have a track on XaaS channel optimization throughout TSW from October 21st-23, and I will lead a session around channel partner incentives and KPIs for XaaS. We have an exciting group of speakers who will share insights and best practices around the theme of channel transformation. I believe this is the first time TSW will have rich, full content for both the partner and the channel leaders on the vendor and partner side, so we look forward to seeing some new faces at our event in Las Vegas. Folks can register now online.


It was a fantastic conversation with Anne and I look forward to many more in the future. I know I’ll see her at TSW – and I hope to see you there, too. Please be sure to attend the session that I’m heading up with Robert Saxe, founder and managing director of nVision Consulting Group, “Accelerating Partner Transformation in the XaaS World.” We’ll discuss best practices and lessons learned around enabling channel partners to evolve their business models, engage new buying centers, and build a portfolio of new digital solutions to deliver throughout  the entire customer lifecycle.

Lastly, Channel Impact will be exhibiting at TSW as a consulting alliance partner. Please email me to set up a discussion or stop by and see me in our booth.

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