Ecosystem Leaders

Episode 178

June 24, 2023

#178 Rob Spee: The Challenges of Transforming Your Organization to an Ecosystem Model

In this Ecosystem Aces Podcast episode, Chip Rodgers, Chief Partner Officer, WorkSpan is joined by Rob Spee, SVP, Global Channel & Alliances, BeyondTrust.

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In this Ecosystem Aces Podcast episode, Chip Rodgers, Chief Partner Officer, WorkSpan is joined by Rob Spee, SVP, Global Channel & Alliances, BeyondTrust.

With over 20 years of experience as a channel and alliance executive, Rob is skilled in using partnerships to drive global revenue growth for his clients. Rob has successfully designed and implemented channel strategies and programs, catering to both startup and established businesses with a channel business of up to $350 million.

Rob built high-performance channel sales teams from the ground up and led a team of over 50 channel sales & marketing professionals.

Topics covered include:

  • The challenge of ecosystem understanding and partner engagement - 6:08
  • Importance of reporting and accountability - 14:04
  • The biggest challenge of change management and integration - 18:02
  • Importance of collaboration and innovation - 22:02
  • Advice on aligning the product roadmap with partners - 25:02

Chip Rodgers  00:07

Hey, welcome back, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of ecosystem aces. I'm excited this morning to be talking to Rob Spee. Rob, welcome.

Rob Spee  00:16

Hey, thank you, Chip. Great to be here.

Chip Rodgers  00:18

Rob, you are an icon already.

Rob Spee  00:28

In my own world.

Chip Rodgers  00:32

Rob is a longtime partner and ecosystem channel person, leader.

BMC, Arrow and SAS and OutSystems and a number of technology organizations. Everything big and small. And in the last year and a half, you've been with BeyondTrust and leading the journey. I also have to mention that, Rob, you've had a podcast for many years as well, channel journeys. And, I think up to over 100 episodes have been recorded so congratulations on that. That's awesome.

Rob Spee  01:32

Yeah, thanks, Chip. Still going strong. Still enjoying it.

Chip Rodgers  01:35

So let's, let's jump in. I'm excited to hear about where things are right now with BeyondTrust. I know you're on a journey yourself and with the organization. So I love to dive into some of that. Maybe just start with an overview of BeyondTrust, tell us a little bit about BeyondTrust, and then really want to get into what's happening in the transformation of the organization and how you're approaching partners.

Rob Spee  02:12

BeyondTrust, we are a cybersecurity company. We're focused on helping companies organizations protect themselves against all the cybersecurity threats, and they're just more and more of those, our particular niche is in the area of identity and access management, the PAM space. So that's where we sit, the partner ecosystem is hugely important to what we do. 

And I joined a year and a half ago to build out a strategy around the ecosystem at the time, we were really more of a transactional channel resellers and VADs and was asked to come on board by Brent throughout our CRO to build a modern partner ecosystem. So it's been a great journey. So far, we're making a lot of progress and, and eager to share more about it.

Chip Rodgers  03:02

That's exciting. That's a lot going on, I'm sure and exciting. Not only the journey that you're on, but that was sort of how you were brought into the organization as well. 

So one of the things that I think we all talk about, and sometimes struggle with is, executive alignment and executive support. So it sounds like that is clearly you've got that, from your leadership to really take a firm hand in what and how you want to shape the ecosystem for BeyondTrust?

Rob Spee  03:44

I think coming into it, I did have that support. But it did take some work to really drive alignment on what that really meant, what does an ecosystem strategy mean? What are we really talking about? What do we need to do and then get everybody on board not just the CRO and the CEO, but the CFO and CMO and all the other leaders across the organization. 

So that definitely took some work and was very important upfront, to map out the strategy, where we want to go over the next couple of years, build a vision of the strategy for the next couple of years, and then get that adoption and support at the executive level?

Chip Rodgers  04:24

How have you done that? And I'm sure it's a journey, but how have you managed to articulate that and get and get buy in?

Rob Spee  04:40

I tried to take an approach, of course, starting with the customer, and what are all the customer touch points? And what does it take as we transition to a SaaS company? Like most companies are either SaaS or transitioning to the SaaS world. What does that really mean to drive an excellent customer experience and customer success? And who are all the players that are involved? Potential players in the partner ecosystem that would play a role in this. So that's really where it started. So I built that out mapped out who we need to have in the ecosystem who we have today, what we're missing? 

And then what would it take to bring them on board? And what are the things we have to do to support that ecosystem within the company? And what are new roles that we need within the organization, both in my own organization, but across the company, all the different supporting roles? And then how do we execute? How do we work together? So it's been an iterative process, it was the first quarter mapping out that vision and then returning to the ELT every quarter with an update on, here's the progress we're making. Here's what we need to tweak. Here's where we need to pivot, just really staying in strong collaboration and communication with the executive team.

Chip Rodgers  05:50

So you started to think it's, sounds like, putting that vision together and collaborating with the organization to agree on what's the right direction? What do you want it to look like and then keep coming back to it?

The challenge of ecosystem understanding and partner engagement

Rob Spee  06:08

And the biggest challenge there is just making sure that everyone understands what we mean by the ecosystem. And people, it takes many conversations to really let it sink in. Because people gravitate to what they know, and what the company knew, or were transactional partners, resellers VARs, VADs. And so to keep reminding them that, now the ecosystem is so much broader, you've got the influencers, the service delivery partners, that the MSPs that we can work with the GSI are all the different partner flavors and partner types.  

What they can do beyond just driving the transaction itself, how they can influence the transaction and add additional value through service delivery, driving outcomes, expanding the account, all of that, even marketing, how do we market? How do we co innovate with our alliance partners? The biggest challenge is just educating people so that they understand what we really mean and what we're trying to accomplish.

Chip Rodgers  07:08

It's interesting, and you touched on it earlier and we talked about this as we were preparing for this for the session. Yeah, the strategy really does impact the entire organization.  I mean, they're just all parts of the organization. Talk a little bit about that. You're talking about marketing, the CFO, other other areas, of course, certainly sales and support. How have you sort of thought through that process of how it will impact different parts of the organization, and in helping to sort of bring them along on this journey?

Rob Spee  07:51

You're having some success when people start using your words, people in different departments. So just some examples, we kept talking about partner delivery, which, amazingly, we didn't, didn't have that strong of a partner delivery arm. And now what's the strategy of the company, we want to push all that delivery through partners, it's gonna take a little bit of a journey to get there. But across the company, everyone's talking about partner delivery, especially and most importantly, RPS organization. So that's, that's a huge one. 

From a marketing perspective, we started pushing the idea of the trifecta marketing campaign, where we're marketing together with multiple partner types, our technology alliance partners, our GSIs, our resellers, our service delivery partners, getting three, four or five parties together to do marketing events, and promote that bigger vision to the customers. And so now across the company, everybody, you hear the word Trifecta marketing. So they're starting to replicate the wording, the terminology that we use, and there's even a big push. 

And I'm not the strongest driver of it to change our terminology from channels, and partners to ecosystems, when you're starting to have an impact, and people are really starting to think about this across the company. 

Chip Rodgers  09:08

That's exciting. It's not easy. You've been at it. What's been the journey? So you've been with BeyondTrust now for about a year and a half? What does that look like so far? And how far along on the journey are you?

Rob Spee  09:24

Well, I'll borrow your maturity model, the WorkSpan maturity model, which has been really helpful for us, Chip and for me, so in your ecosystem, journey, maturity model, you start out at that pre idea. And that's where we were when I came on board. Brent had a vision of an ecosystem. He was at the pre idea stage, but it was we really had a reseller channel, that's what we had. And so there was this vision of what we can add and we had a few ecosystem partners, a couple GSIs we were working with, we had some tap technology alliance partners that we were working with, but it wasn't integrated. 

It wasn't orchestrated in any way. When we thought of channels, we thought transactions VARs, resellers VADs, that type of thing. Then last year in 2022, we started that ecosystem journey. So we built out the strategy, we got the strategy alignment, last year was still dominated by resell, but we started being able to track the other areas of interaction and influence from those other partner types. So building out the infrastructure in Salesforce, just to be able to add that partner involvement, and start reporting on it. 

So that's what we started doing last year started putting the pieces in place, starting adding new members to the team, like partner Success Manager, I added to the partner success director, to focus on more of the post sales work, pre sales, technical, but mostly post sales, technical work and making sure that partners are successful. 

Put new goals on the team. So we had OKRs, or MBOs, that were beyond just transactional, and deals, it's got the cams, the channel managers and channel SEs starting working and thinking in different ways. So last year was really just starting out and developing the mindset and motions and muscle and reporting around the ecosystem. 

This year, I think you call it the progressive stage or like midway in the model. And so now, we are really starting to focus and use the ecosystem. So we shifted our compensation models to be ecosystem focused, we even added a sales bonus, that's an ecosystem bonus for the sales team using the full ecosystem, including GSI, as tap partners, delivery partners, everything. We've expanded our partner program. So we've added these new partner types, and we're actually scaling back from the tiered model, probably next year, we'll remove the tears altogether.

But we've been expanding that out, shifting it to much more of that ecosystem partner program. So we're really making progress. And we're starting to see the impact of the different partner types in our deals. And now that we have better tracking, which is not easy, that's also one of the bigger challenges we are starting to see. And I spent a lot of time looking through the reports and checking the accuracy of reports and ensuring are these different partners really adding value that we think they are?

Chip Rodgers  12:09

That's exciting. And just as you're talking, it triggers so many questions that I'm curious about. And I actually want to get back to him. But I see we have a question from the audience. And I'll just bring this up. So Gagandeep says, What's the biggest challenge you face when convincing your different leadership pillars to adopt an ecosystem? Like growth? We touched on a little bit on that, but I like this, what have been the challenges?

Rob Spee  12:42

Certainly, like I touched on, just helping them understand what we mean by ecosystem was a big challenge, and what's the broader vision? And then another challenge I was facing was people saying, Okay, this all makes sense. But where are we going with this? And that's where your maturity model was so helpful for me, because it painted this vision. And it totally aligned to what we've been doing, but also gave a vision of where we are going. So moving on to your mature and then World Class Stage, I think the big shift for us and for many companies may be this shift towards much more Co- innovation. 

So today, we're co marketing, we're co selling or Co-delivering. Now we need to shift to more Co- innovation. And we have a lot of alliance partners, we're doing the integrations. But we've got to get more to that platform ecosystem portion of the ecosystem model and drive that Co-innovation. So that's the next stage of where we're going. I think, you know, certainly, just having accurate data is so important to getting the leadership and everybody on board with what you're doing. And when your reports are inaccurate, it creates doubt and suspicion right of what's going on. 

So that's something that's a big challenge for me is just constantly working on that we're doing a lot of things to continue improving the accuracy of our data and better ability to report on that ecosystem involvement.

Importance of reporting and accountability

Chip Rodgers  14:04

Reporting is critical and to be able to demonstrate to me, you have to always point back to data.  As you say, build trust within the organization to say, this is actually what's happening, and it's good to see amazing progress that you made. And let's touch back again on a couple of things that you mentioned, I love this idea of, first of all, you've actually introduced new roles. 

You've got new nomenclature, new language and ways of talking about things. And then also new goals and incentives. So it's really in many ways, it's kind of reshaping and putting some critical things in place to have influence and nudge behavior. And it sounds like it's working but maybe talk a little bit about that and what it took to introduce some of those changes and how you're seeing the fruits of it.

Rob Spee  15:21

To introduce them was obviously the support of the ELT working closely with finance, in putting together what the comp models would look like. Now, they were very supportive and put that together. And then coming up with some bonus structures that would help align the sales team to the partner team. And so the partner team has ecosystem goals, we basically take those goals and map them to the reps. So every rep has an ecosystem target as well, it's a bonus target, it's not their core quota. But as a bonus target reps want to make more money. 

So if they help us and come together, they hit the focus ecosystem target, which is a revenue target, but it's based on the percentage of ecosystem involvement we were aiming to get. And that varies of course, by country by region. But this is beyond the transactional partner participation. We've added to that we want to keep that going and growing, want to continue growing partner originated business, of course. 

But we want to have more tap involvement, more deals that are influenced and driven by the integrations of BeyondTrust with our tap partners like sailpoint, ping, tenable Okta, all these other products and solutions that build a stronger and more sticky end solution for the customer. So there's the tap component, there's the GSI component driving more GSI involvement and influence, there's the service delivery partner component to so who are the partners that are out there driving business outcomes after the transaction is done. 

So all of those add to and contribute to that reps bonus by getting more involvement from those different partner types. And so we're looking at the numbers and looking to grow those every quarter by continuing to educate them. Now, the biggest challenge there, we found was like, this is just a massive exercise in change management. And I probably underestimated, because to me, I'm in this every day, and I'm doing the podcast talking to people. So it's just in my head, I get it. But it's a huge change for the rest of the organization. 

So when we rolled out the new comp plan in the first quarter, it was a massive change not only for the sales team, but for our channel team, too. And so it definitely took some extra work getting everybody not necessarily on board, but helping them understand what it really meant and what they didn't fully understand what types of partners were included and what qualified and what didn't qualify. So you know, we could have done a better job communicating it. But it's a challenge, because we did communicate it, but it just takes you to have a lot of conversations to help people understand it.

The biggest challenge of change management and integration

Chip Rodgers  18:02

This is so interesting. I love that because change management going back to my consulting days, it's like it's tough. It's because you have to keep communicating over communication. Indicating, and educating on what is and keeping the goal in mind. Which it sounds like you've been doing a great job of but it's still tough work. 

Rob Spee  18:29

That's interesting, because going deep asked about the toughest challenge from a leadership perspective. But there's also the toughest challenge from where the rubber hits the road down at the sales rep level. And that's what we are facing now. And, rolling this out, that's the change management that we're dealing with. And one of the missing components, I realized, and I'm working on it now. 

And this stems from a podcast that I just did with Bart Fanelli about shifting our mindset of ourselves as leaders and channel partner managers from more of a control methodology to a coaching and collaboration methodology. Because it takes a lot of coaching to work with the ecosystem, this new model but it all starts with a baseline, you've got to have a baseline methodology to start from, that's your common language. So if working with a partner ecosystem is on the outside the periphery of that baseline of your sales methodology, then it feels like an add on, it's not part of the natural motion. 

And that's a tough sell. It's like don't bother me, I've got things I've got to close this deal. This isn't part of it. So what we're doing is now building in the partner ecosystem motions into our sales methodology, so that I'm working with sales enablement, and we're gonna roll that out and now we'll have that baseline for coaching that's so important. So that our channel team, our sales reps, everybody knows, this is how you do it through all the motions of the sales methodology. Here are the types of partners I involve here. How I involve them in here's how I talk to customers about the partner ecosystem.

Chip Rodgers  20:04

Interesting. So are you using like a medic or sales? Sales methodology? And then you've worked with your sales enablement team to embed some of those Ecosystem elements into the methodology.

Rob Spee  20:22

Exactly. We use medic, we use force management. So we got to build this ecosystem approach. Bake it straight into that methodology.

Chip Rodgers  20:30

Wow. That may be worth a blog. I love that. It's so important. And then,kind of the training and education and putting incentives in place and all that. Terrific.

Rob Spee  20:54

Terrific work. I mentioned your maturity model that put us right in the middle. Another thing I did, that was fun. So Jay McBain wrote this article about 13 questions you should ask yourself and your organization to see where you are on this journey. So I took those 13 questions. And I ranked ourselves on each one of them from a scale of one to five, and then scored ourselves to see where we came out. And I ended up with a score of 49%. So that told me, it totally aligned to your model. It's right in the middle of the journey, where you're getting there. And it helped because now I've got 13 additional things to look at, of where we can improve, based on those questions that Jay put forward. So now I have two models to work with to help me see what else we need to do.

Chip Rodgers  21:43

That's fantastic. Jay I saw last night, said that before, before this podcast was out. We need to talk about sailing.

Rob Spee  21:58

I think we all sail, share a love for sailing with rail.

Importance of collaboration and innovation

Chip Rodgers  22:02

We do. So let's talk a little bit about what you mentioned, and it's interesting. We also have been on a journey as well. And we think of the flywheel for building, Co-creation, and then Co- marketing and Co- selling and then funding ,putting money back into the business. But what we've come to over maybe the last year is that it's really all about like, the umbrella is Co- selling, it's all about Co-selling, because ultimately, that's where the rubber meets the road. And, but I love that you're now thinking about moving your way back deeper into the origin of Co-selling, which is co-creation and Co- building solutions. 

Tell me a little bit about where you were with that. And I know it's a journey, but how do you see that coming together and growing? And what kind of steps are you taking with partners to do that?

Rob Spee  23:14

Well, there are two elements, there's the partner element, but there's also the product element to this, where we have to bring the product team into this and have them be part of the conversation and look at the product direction. And does the product direction support the ecosystem approach from a platform perspective from API and integration points, for a multi-tenancy for MSPs, all of those different things. 

So we're working very closely with the product team, we're launching this year, a new product identity insights, which basically takes data from all of our different products, as well as other products, other tools, to present them to the to the customer, and help pinpoint and identify, not just identify security threats, but also offer recommendations, remedies for those. And you know, AI analytics will all come into play here. This is a huge opportunity for partners for innovation. So we gave a sneak peek to this at our kickoff to some of our partners where I go beyond in May, that's our big partner in customer events. 

So there's going to be a lot of talk about GA later this year. So that's I think, for me, the first stepping stone for really strong collaboration and Co-innovation with partners. I've got partners already that are looking at this and how they can make it into their managed services offering for example. But then when you can take data from other systems, maybe it's your ServiceNow system, your cell phone system, your ping system, whatever it might be, now you have a lot more data in there. And then our recommendations can even get more rich for the customers. So that's a really big piece of it from the partner. I think we've got the partners in place and we'll keep adding them who can co-innovate with us. And that will probably expand as our product strategy continues. Is evolving.

Advice on aligning the product roadmap with partners

Chip Rodgers  25:02

Interesting. Then when you talk about, from a product standpoint, you're talking, it sounds like a couple of different dimensions. One is aligning your own product roadmap with where you think partners can play. But then also the technical infrastructure API's and those kinds of things in order to be able to be partner friendly to enable those kinds of things. Maybe talk a little bit about those elements.

Rob Spee  25:34

Those are super important. And what it requires is getting our product team very close to our partners. And so they're having a lot of conversations with our partners at these events that we go to, as well as just setting up meetings outside of that, and presenting our roadmap. So we've been doing roadmap presentations to our most strategic partners, who have this innovation, co-innovation capability. And they can start baking this into their roadmaps as well into their product plans. So it's you start building out an ecosystem roadmap, not just our products, but what their product is gonna look?

Chip Rodgers  26:08

It is very exciting.

Rob Spee  26:13

And this is what makes us so much fun. It's just, so many new things that we can do.

Chip Rodgers  26:20

It's terrific, and you're getting the organization behind it, and what a tremendous success story. This is, I know, you're not there yet.

Rob Spee  26:35

Yeah, we just got to stay the course. Continue to have that alignment, continue being ready to pivot as needed.Things conditions, change whatever changes to be able to pivot where you need to, but also know where to stay that horse and not get gun shy. If you have things going, you're gonna have a great quarter with the GSIs. 

And the next quarter, you have a great quarter with the alliance partners, a big deal can really push one or the other over the line. But just really keeping the team focused and staying the course I think is so important. And constant communication, like we talked about. And that in that change management?

Chip Rodgers  27:11

Rob, this has been fantastic. I like to ask for a closing question, which is, and I know you have a ton of ideas to choose from. But is there any piece of advice or thing that you've learned along the way in your career that you would want to share with other partner leaders that you found valuable or that you would want to share?

Rob Spee  27:43

I think the biggest lesson I've learned as a leader is to try to be humble and realize that there are smarter people in the room. And that's a good thing. And that's a challenge for me. I'm very independent. And I've got to remember, this is such a team sport across the company, really driving that and being a good team player, everyone has to be working across the company and we have a model that at beyond just is really assuming the best intentions. And that's so important for everybody, because everyone's trying to figure this out. Everybody wants the company to grow. So how do we do this together?

Chip Rodgers  28:19

Great advice. And within the company and with partners as well. 

Rob Spee  28:31

We have not even touched much on the partner side. That's a whole another thing that we're working on.

Chip Rodgers  28:37

Well, this is fantastic, Rob. So let's talk. I want to answer Jay's question about sailing. What have you had any recent trips that you've really enjoyed, or anything coming up?

Rob Spee  28:53

So I've done some podcasts about my ocean sailing. I love blue otter sailing, but I've gotten back into Caribbean sailing and on a catamaran. So this is new for me, catamaran sailing. I went on a trip in October with a couple buddies. We loved it. It was so much fun. Taking my family in two weeks on a catamaran. 

I've got another guy's trip planned for October, and I'm getting my captain's license. So I'm just starting that journey there. It's called the six pack license. That is the entry level captain's license, because I actually want to do more of these and I want to bring others along. That'll be a different channel's journey to go sailing together.

Chip Rodgers  29:32

That's fantastic. So where are you going? With your family?

Rob Spee  29:37

We're going back to the British. The British Virgin Islands.

Chip Rodgers  29:40

Yeah, it's beautiful down there.

Rob Spee  29:41

And that's where I did my honeymoon. I've taken the kids there before and it's just such a fun, relaxing, beautiful place to go.

Chip Rodgers  29:49

It's so nice because it's very first of all, the weather's always beautiful. It's like 80 and there's like the trade winds of 10 to 20 knots consistently coming out of the southeast. And there's so many little coves everywhere you can sail from one island to the next and you can see like, nobody has to freak out.

Rob Spee  30:19

The spouse is happy when they can see like not in the middle of the blue ocean.

Chip Rodgers  30:23

Exactly. Well, that's exciting. Looking forward to hearing how that trip goes. And, Rob, thank you so much for sharing this incredible journey that you're on with BeyondTrust. And it's really exciting the progress that you've made. And, hear as you continue on the journey, the results and how it's how it's shaping up?

Rob Spee  30:54

I guess a final comment, just big thanks. Because I couldn't do this without the fantastic team that I have at BeyondTrust. And it's the channel Alliance team. It's the whole broader team. We're all working together on this. And then it's even the expanded team, Chip, you guys, all the other expanded ecosystems that we have, and all the folks that I chat with. Everybody's so eager and willing to share their stories. That's so fantastic.

Chip Rodgers  31:18

That's awesome. That's fantastic.

Rob Spee  31:26


Chip Rodgers  31:31

Rob, thank you again, and really appreciate your time today and sharing all of this. These great ideas and the work that you've been doing at BeyondTrust. Fantastic. Congratulations.

Rob Spee  31:50

Thank you for the opportunity to share.

Chip Rodgers  31:52

I think with that, I'll say thank you all for joining us for another episode of ecosystem aces. And we will see you next time. I think next week actually has another podcast coming up. So awesome. Thanks, everybody for joining and we'll see you next time. Bye, everyone. Thanks, Rob.

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