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Ecosystem Leaders

Episode 175

April 21, 2023

#175 Dana Vickey: Partnering for Success: How Eightfold’s Ecosystem Drives Innovation and Growth

In this Ecosystem Aces Podcast episode, Chip Rodgers, CMO WorkSpan is joined by Dana Vickey, Global VP-Alliances, Partners & Channels, Eightfold.

In this Ecosystem Aces Podcast episode, Chip Rodgers, CMO WorkSpan is joined by Dana Vickey, Global VP-Alliances, Partners & Channels, Eightfold.

Dana has extensive expertise in sales, business development, partnerships, and marketing with experience working with Start-ups to F200s in the computer software, IT services, high-tech, and telecommunications sectors.

Topics covered include:

  • Four quadrants of partner motion - 4:16
  • How to prioritize and integrate solutions with partners effectively - 5:59
  • What does marketing co-selling look like when you are ready to bring something to market? - 13:47
  • How to get both sides of the business to work together. - 16:00
  • Advice that has stuck with Dana throughout her career. - 23:31
  • How Eightfold views relationships with VAD/VAR partners. - 25:23

Chip Rodgers  00:06

Welcome back to another episode of ecosystem aces. I'm excited to be joined today by Dana Vickey. Dana, welcome.

Dana Vickey  00:15

Thank you very much Chip. Thanks for inviting me.

Chip Rodgers  00:19

Dana is Global Vice President Alliances Partners and Channels with Eightfold, and which is just exciting. I don't know if you can call yourself a startup anymore. 600 plus employees, Series E at this point, AI based HR technology. And we'll get into a little bit of that in a minute. Dana has been for many years in the partnering business with Deloitte, Fuze, VMware and EMC and have hit all the high points for technology companies.

Dana Vickey 01:25

I did, and before that, a myriad of startups and turnarounds and everything else. They're pretty extensive background and pretty eclectic. 

Chip Rodgers 01:35

Well, that's fantastic.A lot to draw on. And I know our audience will really appreciate it and love to hear from you. So Dana, why don't we start? Maybe let's start with Eightfold. Tell us a little bit about what you and your team are up to at Eightfold these days?

Dana Vickey  01:54

First of all, thank you so much. I am thrilled to be at Eightfold. I've been there for over a year. I joined from Deloitte, where I was the go to market CO leader for advisory alliances, and before that, VMware, EMC etc. And so what we do for a living is, our mission is really the right career for everyone in the world, which is a pretty lofty mission, and really important, especially now in this marketplace. But at the core of it, we are an AI big data company that addresses talent challenges that we face today. 

So what we're looking to do with is work with organizations to really take a look at talent for not only workforce planning, but really take a look at skills and how we can become skills based organizations to take a look at someone's capabilities, learning skill sets and see where they want to go in their career to really be contributors to the organization's.

So that's what we do for a living. And my role there is to really build our partner ecosystem, which is really an exciting role. Since we have a platform, we are an integrated platform for a number of or I should say, a myriad of applications. And today, we partner with SAAS and ISV companies, SAP being our largest SAAS, and we are the top endorsed partner with SAP today, which is really exciting.

And then when you go to the upper right quadrant, you're really talking from GSIs, like Deloitte, which is the leading HCM, HXM provider globally out there to boutiques like a blue crab or an informal to help implement so you have delivery to implementation. And then you have the VAT VAR region, which is in the lower right, where you say, Okay, how do you have an end to end result, program, and then our app marketplace where we are integrating into applications like degreed applications like hacker rank, that will really fulfill the hybrid ecosystem or the ecosystem itself. So that's what I do for a living and it is exciting. It is a high growth company that is going gangbusters. So thank you, Chip.

Four quadrants of partner motion

Chip Rodgers  04:14

That's exciting. It's interesting that as you've grown in your career and had a number of different roles, with different kinds of partners that now you've really got the full scope and you have a team that will focus on different areas, but how do you think about how you manage all of those because they're very different. Each one is different. You're either building solutions together or you're delivering or you're recently like, they're all different sorts of partner motions.

Dana Vickey  04:55

There are many different market motions. And when I look at the upper right hand quadrant, which is ISV, SAAS, this integration technology strategy is really important to the delivery of a complete solution. So they, once again, interlock with each other, which is really important. And then you have that VAR, which is really a go to market motion, which tends to be focused on whether it's an industry or a specific segment of the market. And that's important too, because you want a long term and a short term market. 

And then you have the app marketplace, which is really about using your platform as a way for, having choice and options in the marketplace for delivery for customer success. So those are the four quadrants and how we work together. And obviously, you know, that app market place is used by customers, by partners and to make a richer offering.

How to prioritize and integrate solutions with partners effectively

Chip Rodgers  05:59

Let's talk about integration strategy, and how you build solutions together? And what does that process look like? Because it's a full head you have your own roadmap of what you're planning. And then you have partners that have on their own. So how do you bring those things together? How do you prioritize and think about where you want to work together? Where do you want to invest? Where the balance of value is, and things like that?

Dana Vickey  06:42

That is such an excellent question. When you take a look at your strategic value in the marketplace, and where you want to go, the question is, what can you bring customers or clients together? Or GSI Clients together.  And where do you need to go in the marketplace to map where key trends are going as well.

So we take a look at a number of different areas and invest in those areas, we have partners come to us. And we also go to targeted partners and say, Hey, this is what we're seeing, how do you want to engage, and we have an entire enablement team, from product to our product delivery team that will help with integration and updates, so that the product is always relevant and fresh, and also driving towards new feature functionality that's important in the marketplace. We do a lot of market research. 

One, that's what we do for a living as far as our capabilities. As an example, like you could say, okay, Dana, Vickey, you know, someday maybe I'll be a Python developer, but today, I may be JSON, how do I get there? We have ways to turn on skills and what's declining and what's not. That's just one area in which we watch in the marketplace, but also we're out there talking to partners to customers every single day. And we aggregate that data, which will help really drive our product roadmapping.

Chip Rodgers  08:13

I love it, that you bring those customer conversations into the mix that is customer driven.

Dana Vickey  08:27

It's absolutely customer driven because at the end of the day, that's what it's about. It's about making them successful. But also our partners are very close confidants of ours, and we have a lot of partner advisory activities as well, where we take feedback back and forth, and also incorporate that in our direction as well. Because we have to make it easy for them to be successful in the marketplace. I mean, this is a two way street, one, customer success, and then also our success and partner success, which is mutually beneficial.

Chip Rodgers  09:03

How do you balance those between partners? What feedback from customers and from partners, and because they may be seeing different things, different trends based on the expertise?

Dana Vickey  09:24

They are. And we have an excellent product marketing and product management team that really corrals that information with external resources, internal RVC customer feedback, and you always want to be careful with your customers who may have one exception for their functionality that they want. Well, we don't Splinter that or will not Splinter that and keep it in a general release. 

So that is the goal. We're trying to make it as operational and functional as possible with the eye on customer success because that's what we all want.

Chip Rodgers  10:04

It's something that's repeatable alluding to that, because it can be easy to go down a rabbit hole with a customer. And then it's like, wait a minute, there are others that might be interested in this kind of solution?

Dana Vickey  10:21

That's a big question. And we're at a point in our lifecycle where we have customers like Whirlpool, Eaton, Starbucks, big name accounts, and we really have to keep a GA mode in front of us, obviously, where you're going to serve our customer. And if they want specific font functionality, we would love to work with a partner there, and also support them. But generally the product release, we're really driving, where our customers are going, what their success is focused on.

Chip Rodgers  10:59

You've talked about their product teams, and then product marketing teams, and doing a lot of research or do you have a process for pulling those teams, together your product teams, with your partner product teams to do some of that prioritization and balancing and things.

Dana Vickey  11:25

We are very close to our product teams, as an example, with SAP SuccessFactors, we have very tightly interlocked as far as where their roadmap and our product roadmap is going so that we can integrate effectively and also integrating into their business technology platform, which is their PAAS environment, once again, really fundamental that we provide the customers what they need to be successful, and also our partners to be able to go to market and deliver effectively. 

And so there's lots of conversations on the product roadmapping aspect from partners, and also certainly with our GSIs as well, they are definitely near the ground and see a lot in the marketplace as trusted advisors.

Chip Rodgers  12:12

I knew that you were a significantly endorsed app partner, I didn't realize that you were the top partner.

Dana Vickey  12:19

We are. Thank you. 

Chip Rodgers  12:23

That's a great program for SAP and for all the partners.

Dana Vickey  12:31

It's a two step program. The market motions are very field oriented, however, you really have an entire ecosystem within the SAP world that you work with. From an operational standpoint, as far as their partnership team, their enablement, obviously, their sales team driving opportunities daily, and then marketing as far as messaging positioning the operations of the relationship and executive engagement.

Chip Rodgers  13:03

So it's the full lifecycle.

Dana Vickey  13:05

Absolutely, it is. It's a wonderful program. It's about three years old. And we were very fortunate, and have worked very hard with SAP as a mutual relationship.

What does marketing co-selling look like when you are ready to bring something to market

Chip Rodgers  13:20

That's fantastic.  Let's talk about the other aspects of the go to market not necessarily just with the endorsed apps and SAP, but all partners. How do you take it through that process? So you've built a solution with a partner, you've gone through the market research prioritization. Put the product teams together to find everything done the integration, now you're getting ready to bring something to market? What does that look like? Marketing, co-selling all those things. 

Dana Vickey  14:01

A lot of groundwork that's done. As far as you know, in with the feature functionality, you've obviously got a cost out, what features, your functionality, what it costs, how to develop it, how to deliver it, that all pulls into, now, let's talk about the joint value, which we've talked about all the way along throughout this entire process of what the value is to the customer in the market is how do you take that message, turn it internally to your internal sales organization, as well as whether it's ISV or GSI or GSO? How do you turn it internally, which typically is the hardest thing to do when you're partnering?

What is the program? What is the value prop? What does it look like? How do you enable each other? What are the rules of engagement? What are the incentive programs? 

When you live it every day this is what is what you are thinking about? So these are the things that you think about when you go to market? And how do you make it as simple as possible? And that's the hardest thing to do is to take a complex solution with another solution. And make it as simple as possible for your internal folks and external-facing folks to understand what they bring what we can bring together to a joint customer to make them successful. And then once you sell it in the marketplace, how do you deliver it effectively, and also make that customer successful throughout their entire lifecycle? Because otherwise, you have nowhere to go. It's about their customer success. And so we're very focused on that with our partners. And that's really where we're putting a tremendous amount of emphasis.

How to get both sides of the business to work together

Chip Rodgers  16:00

A lot of things to think about and pull together. You talked about enablement. And then instead of programs how do you get the field? How do you get both sides? How do you get your teams, your sales teams enabled? How do you get the partner sales teams enabled? How do you bring it to market? How do you get the right incentives in place for everyone to feel like it's a win-win to be working together? 

And maybe talk a little bit about an early partnership like that? It's so tough sometimes to get like, there's some weariness, and then you get the teams to work together. 

Dana Vickey  16:48

We just talked about a full blown relationship. And these sometimes take years and decades. Quite honestly.My years at Deloitte were decades of relationships with alliances and partners. Same with EMC and VMware, you build a business on top of a business based on your alliances and partnerships and solutions that you brought to market.

And however you wanted to go to market, whether it was a white label or a sell through of lots of different market motions. But to really get started, once again, I go back to the simplest thing that we can, and that is, how do we win in the field? Can we get calls together? What do we do to engage, and I typically take a look at our organization, say, maybe 30%, or game to take that type of risk. 

You want to work with your friendlies to be and then you may have another 30%, in the middle saying, I really want to understand this, I think I can make an impact here, how does this work, and then some folks may say, I'm gonna hold back for a little bit and really see how this is proven out. So you will typically go with the early adopters who are willing to take a lot of risk. 

And you work with them very closely to get success, just like any business development or market development effort. And once you get that you get better educated about what is going to work, what's not going to work, how to hone your message, how to hone your offer, so you become very repetitive. And that's what we've done as an example with someone like Deloitte as an example, or smaller players, smaller ISVs, like degreed as an example, which is one of the leading LXPs out there, and so the learning platforms. 

You want to start small and see what success is? One of the most critical pieces too, is that both organizations are aligned, that is probably, to me the most critical factor. Are we aligned? Do we want to drive in that same direction? What do we want to do for our customers? Is it a win-win for both of us? That, to me, is a critical factor. And you really have to get into a room and work with someone and build a trusted relationship to be able to do that effectively, because you're going to have bumps in the road. It's like any relationship. I talk about relationships all the time. At the end of the day, what do you have, you have a relationship, that's what it's about. And your drivers in business may be different than personal, but there's mutual value. And so you really have to see that in alliances and partners. What's the mutual value that you bring to customers? Ultimately, you reach your customers, and then the mutual value for each organization in yourself.

Chip Rodgers  19:53

That was such great advice and learning. I love that, starting small, work with the friendlies. Even from a customer standpoint, people that are more early adopters, you're going to start that way, but you're applying it to the sales team as well. Let's say you're starting to get traction, it's growing, how do you start to then scale the program? What does that look like? Can you now start to get that next 30%? 

Dana Vickey  20:48

I'm a very judicious person. So I'll take a look at that model. From enablement to sales, to marketing to ops. And what I will do is add resources to each specific area where you invest, but you also see in return within a specific time, right timeframe. And there are specific there are metrics that I will use to say, Yep, I need to do this, I need to do that I need to add this, obviously, there are going to be customer engagements where you will have to, and you need to, and you want to apply resources ahead of the curve. Because that's just an investment. 

If you are going to be a partner centric organization, you need to invest effectively. But you also need to see your return.

Chip Rodgers  21:34

So as you're doing it, you're watching those metrics, and in this in a small way, and then keep applying more as it continues to grow.

Dana Vickey  21:46

Exactly. And obviously your executive sponsorship, because they're the folks who are going to drive it down, they're going to be the messengers, and they will have to take responsibility for it. And then you have the other folks in the organization that also need to be driven off of these specific metrics. You really have to be in the boat aligned in rowing the same direction.

Sometimes that doesn't always work perfectly. It sounds great. But there's always some things to iron out. I feel like a therapist, some days I feel like resolution. And you know, other days, I'm a translator. And that's what alliances and partner people do.

Chip Rodgers  22:42

That's so true because you have, not only the technical knowledge, there's the market knowledge, there's understanding the customers, and you each have different customers. But then there's just the cultural differences between companies.

Dana Vickey  23:00

That is something you have to be very in tune to. You really have to understand how they operate and listen. And there were things that may not match, but you get to a place where it's definitely workable, and it's fine. And you work through things, but you really culturally have to figure out how to align it goes back to the core piece of can you align.

Advice that has stuck with Dana throughout her career

Chip Rodgers  23:44

This has just been a really rich conversation. Dana, just fantastic. Maybe, I'd love to hear your thoughts. And you've already given a lot of good advice, but anything generally as you've gone through your career that has stuck with you, that is, some good advice or something that you would share with our audience about things that have worked for you that that you think about on a regular basis. And you share with your team as well.

Dana Vickey  24:09

I think one of the most critical guiding principles is to be curious. You have to learn, and it goes on and on and on and not not to be afraid to say, hey, I don't know, can you help me? I think that's one of the most powerful statements, can you help me understand, because people want to generally help you, and they want to be successful and make you successful, as well, in most situations.

So the curiosity factor is really critical. Always certainly willing to learn those that are probably one of the most critical factors in this. I also think not being afraid to make mistakes because you have to make, and not only making the mistakes but owning them. Because that's very powerful to Yeah, well, that didn't work. But let's think about the Yeah. I mean, there's, there's a lot of humility to that. And that's really important. So those are the things that I think about certainly being open.

How Eightfold views relationships with VAD VAR partners

Chip Rodgers  25:23

That's fantastic. What a great conversation. Any other thoughts? Well what is one area that we didn't really cover that I'd love to hear, as well is, is on the VAD VAR side. It's, you know, we've been talking about building solutions together and delivering solutions. Tell me about that part of the business for Eightfold because there's been a lot of change and disruption in that area. I think VARS are really trying to provide more services. And how do you see that? How does Eightfold see those relationships?

Dana Vickey  26:02

We will tend to take a look at that, particularly VARs on a regional basis. We will have folks that will come to us, whether it's a segment of the market that they focus on or a specific industry or a specific solution that they want to solve or they may deliver other offerings, whether it's, like a sales force or, a service now. And the question is, how do you want to deliver with that as a cohesive offering. 

So those are the types of things we take a look at, it has a different type, I shouldn't say different, but it has a different enablement model. The model may be as an indirect, where they take into end the full customer lifecycle where they also contract, and there may be others where they don't want to contract. So you really want to be able to manage that effectively. But that strategy has to fit into your organization effectively. And then also, within there's, and there's an investment on their side, just like ours, and we have to be very conscientious about that, that it's going to win for them and win for us, and ultimately, the customer. That's what we care about.

Chip Rodgers  27:16

Maybe share a little bit about how you do some of that prioritization. We are in that segment, maybe it's geographic.

Dana Vickey  27:33

Yes, those are exactly right. Those are the metrics. So geographically, where do you need to go? How is that region by what are the relationships? Who has the appetite to have end to end go to market and implementation? You take a look at where they are in the marketplace, as far as you know, revenue, financial information, and then you create your metrics. Once again, I love Harvey balls. I don't know if everyone remembers those. 

Chip Rodgers  28:10

Your circles with the quarter

Dana Vickey  28:13

I am a very analytical person. And I love going back to the data. But I also love going with my gut reaction, which happens to be, when you get in front of a potential partner, how do you work together? What is chemistry? And that's more qualitative? So it's quantitative and qualitative.

Chip Rodgers  28:32

We have covered so much, Dana, this has been fantastic. I really appreciate you sharing all of your experience and knowledge and it sounds like things are just going terrific with Eightfold over the last year and a half. And congratulations on that. And continued success and growth.

Dana Vickey  28:55

Thank you Chip. Thanks so much for the time, I really appreciate it. 

Chip Rodgers  29:02

Dana, thank you for joining us. And thank you all for joining another episode of ecosystem aces. I'm Chip Rodgers and for Dana Vickey. Thanks again for joining us, and we will see you next time, which I think is because we've got another session coming up next week. So Dana, thank you. And thank you all for joining us.

Dana Vickey  29:24

My pleasure. Thank you!

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