The Top 25 Channel Mavericks Of 20094:00 PM EST Tue. Nov. 24, 2009
The Top 25 Channel Mavericks of 2009 bucked the system with brash, bold thinking to make sure that solution providers weren't caught in the economic down-draft. These independent, make-it-happen channel chargers made big bets to aggressively grab market share with channel enhancements and cutting-edge products that blew partners away. These are the executives who broke the rules to bring big profits to partners in 2009.
Mavericks are never satisfied with a small piece of the pie. Since taking the helm of Samsung's U.S. information technology group in July, Doug Albregts has led a charge to make the company a bigger player in the business market. That's no small matter when you're talking about a $110 billion industry powerhouse that already dominates a sizable chunk of the consumer-electronics space. At the heart of Samsung's plan is an all-out revamping of the company's commercial business to make it and its partners completely customer-focused. It's not rhetoric. Albregts is on a task force that is focused on making the huge investments in infrastructure and channel programs to remake the company into a commercial IT power.
You have to be a maverick to deliver a product like Windows 7 inside the byzantine bureaucracy that is Microsoft. By all accounts, Windows 7 represents a dramatic improvement over its much maligned predecessor, Vista. Before straightening out the Microsoft operating system mess, Sinofsky had worked wonders with the other big Microsoft franchise, Microsoft Office. He isn't swayed by Microsoft's high-powered politics. He's all about results. Sinofsky has become Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's go-to-guy. And he could very well be the next CEO of Microsoft.
One hallmark of a maverick is making big bets that most executives would shy away from. That's what Kevin Kennedy has done with a planned $915 million deal to buy Nortel's enterprise network business. The deal instantly changes the face of Avaya, and its reverberations will be felt throughout the network market for years to come. What we love about Kennedy is he has followed the big deal up with big-time channel commitment. Kennedy says the acquisition will accelerate Avaya's channel growth to a point where Avaya becomes an 85 percent indirect sales company within two years.
Kim Polese's passion for innovation brought us the Java computing revolution that has led to an explosion in intelligent Web applications. And now her desire to tackle the thorniest computer science problems is helping to drive a new wave of applications built on components that are tried, true and tested to ensure they don't put the whammy on businesses. Already, SpikeSource has certified 5,000 software components as part of its Solutions Factory platform. She says the cloud and mobile computing revolutions spell big opportunity for solution providers that are agile and willing to change.
Lenovo has a legacy of independent thinking that has led to product breakthroughs. But adding Stephen DiFranco to the team has led to a major SMB channel and product renaissance at Lenovo. Not surprising, since DiFranco is always willing to buck the system to make sure partners get the right products at the right price with all the support, training, and sales tools they need to be successful. One sign of DiFranco's sure hand: an all-out Windows 7 Lenovo product blitz.
It's hard to find a CEO who relishes his maverick status as much as Marc Benioff does. The Salesforce.com founder is the original cloud computing kid. His drive and determination have made him the poster boy for the SaaS revolution. And Benioff has not missed a beat since founding Salesforce.com a decade ago, always pushing the company into new territory.
No one has done more in such a short time to get their hands around the far-flung and convoluted U.S. information technology infrastructure than Vivek Kundra. The U.S.' first CIO has taken the Beltway by storm with a bid to use technology to reach out to taxpayers and make the federal government more transparent. Not only that, he's moving to make the U.S. more responsive with new tools and metrics for measuring and managing cybersecurity. Kundra is the right CIO at the right time.
There's a reason Carahsoft has become the federal government's largest VAR partner in just six short years. A good deal of the credit goes to Abod, who upped the ante for providing value to both his solution provider partners and customers in the federal marketplace. That has resulted in revenue growth of 281 percent over the last two years to $345 million, putting the company at No. 6 on the 2009 CRN Fast Growth 100 list. A posting on Carahsoft's LinkedIn profile says it best: "I have studied this market for 25 years and I've never seen any sales pro with this much punch. Abod is peerless."
You've got to be a maverick to beat giants like Cisco and Symantec. That's just what Matt Medeiros has been doing in the network security market game since he became CEO of SonicWall six years ago. Medeiros' passion for technical excellence and customer service has made the company a favorite of partners. Now with the MSP model reshaping the business, SonicWall has made enhancements to its program aimed at helping partners cross the MSP chasm.
This is not your father's Tech Data. Robert Dutkowsky's willingness to think outside the box has Tech Data breaking into new markets at a faster clip. This year, Dutkowsky charged into the open-source market with a program aimed at dramatically expanding the distributor's open-source line card and opened new business units focused on health care, unified communications and network security. And Tech Data nailed a big deal to help drive services revenue for partners by bringing SunGard availability services to the channel.
Being a maverick means making bold predictions and then backing them up. That's what Lanci did earlier this year when he predicted that Acer would surpass Dell in PC shipments. Sure enough, when market researcher IDC put out the data for the third quarter, there was Acer firmly in the No. 2 position. We just wish that he'd bring a more proactive commercial channel effort to the table to allow Acer to make even bigger gains.
Jim Firestone is helping Xerox partners navigate seismic shifts in the business landscape as he moves to allay partner concerns surrounding Xerox's planned $6.4 billion acquisition of business process outsourcing giant Affiliated Computer Services. Firestone has gone to great lengths to make sure that longtime Xerox print partners continue to be successful. He says the channel remains a key priority for the company, whose managed print services program has won praise from partners. Look for Firestone to make sure that Xerox maintains its channel edge in 2010.
McAfee, a principal research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who coined the term 'Enterprise 2.0,' is giving the channel a kick in the social networking pants. McAfee is rallying solution providers to get with the social networking program. To put it bluntly, he says solution providers that don't take advantage of social networking tools such as Facebook, which have already reshaped personal lives, are putting their businesses at risk. Sometimes being a maverick means hrowing cold water in people's faces to get them to wake up.
Some CEOs let Wall Street rhetoric sway them as they make the critical decisions that result in boom or bust. Not Kevin Johnson. While many of Juniper's competitors have focused on M&A activity, Johnson has pushed product and platform innovation. Johnson sees the networking industry at a crossroads where innovation could be slowed. What's more, he points out many of the networking industry acquisitions feature marketing integration without technology integration. He's right. Partners praise him for giving them a strategic platform to take into battle against Cisco.
Mavericks are all about taking action. In an age where a lot of executives are great at channel rhetoric and light on follow-through, Tom Miller is the real deal. The 28-year channel veteran has brought a back-to-basics sensibility to the company to make sure that Sage partners get everything they need to drive healthy revenues and profits. Miller, who joined Sage in June after eight years with Microsoft, is driving a level of trust and high touch that he says is a thing of the past at Sage rival Microsoft. Overseeing all channel programs, operations and channel marketing for the $2.55 billion applications software giant is a big job. But Miller has already had a huge impact in only a few months.
Scott Davis is a results-oriented, channel-charging phenom in a market where the sales influence of partners is often overlooked. To put it bluntly, Davis does what it takes to get partners get what they need to be successful. That has made him a favorite of solution providers. It's also a key reason that Western Digital is at the top of the disk drive mountain.
You've got to be a maverick to move from market leader Cisco to a security company grappling with a slew of frustrated channel partners. That's the tough task that 10-year Cisco channel veteran Alex Thurber took on when he accepted the top job as senior vice president for channel operations for McAfee in August. Thurber has wasted little time shaking it up to provide McAfee partners with some relief. Only two months after coming on board, Thurber rolled out new programs and initiatives aimed at keeping McAfee's own sales reps from stepping on channel partner's toes. At the top of the list is a plan to pay its field sales staff 10 percent more on deals in which a partner is involved from an early stage in the sales cycle. That's maverick thinking at its best.
HP's top enterprise partners have posted healthy sales and profit gains despite the biggest downturn in the history of the information technology market. A lot of the credit for HP's robust channel goes to Rauch. His biggest contribution may be making sure that HP's top partners and the company's direct sales force are on the same page. He fought to make sure that HP partners get the same training and sales tools the HP direct sales force has.
Only a maverick would start a solution provider business when more than a few are closing their doors. That's just what Michael Haley did when he launched Edge Solutions one year ago. Today, solution provider's sales are skyrocketing. While many VARs have been tightening their belts, Edge Solutions is hiring new employees to fuel its growth. One of the secrets to the company's success is Haley's 20 years of experience in selling technology solutions. Before starting Edge, he was vice president and general manager of the HP selling division at Arrow Electronics, where he led the team to more than 200 percent sales growth.
ViewSonic has always been known for pushing the technology envelope in displays and projectors. But the company's PC, netbook and nettop products have taken it to another level. Longtime PC vendors are flat out being left in the dust by the innovation and price performance that ViewSonic has brought to the market. One thing that hasn't changed is ViewSonic's 100 percent channel commitment. Volpe, a 13-year ViewSonic veteran, has made sure of that.
Being a maverick means getting there first. That's what Zach Nelson and NetSuite have done in the SMB SaaS market. Nelson has built a strong and loyal partner base by never wavering from the company's long-standing channel commitment. All this talk of the cloud must make him dizzy. NetSuite has been delivering on its cloud computing model since the company was founded 11 years ago.
Patrick McNicholas chose the right name for the spinoff of his system-building business. There is nothing more "maverick" than taking on Microsoft in office productivity software in 2009. Maverick's margin-rich alternative to Microsoft Office is a hit with systems builders. McNicholas says Maverick provides the same functionality as Microsoft Office at half the price. Maverick says its mission is to "be a low-cost alternative to other office product offerings by providing usable, scalable and seamlessly compatible software." Mission accomplished.
Julie Parrish is one of the best in the business at getting the companies she works for to bring their "A" game to the channel. She did it at Symantec, and now she's making it happen at NetApp. Parrish, who joined NetApp a year ago, has already had a big impact with a number of changes aimed at making it easier for partner to do business with the company. Those include a new partner portal and new tools to help partners step up their marketing efforts. She has also implemented a new policy mandating that NetApp will no longer compensate direct sales reps for professional services they sell to commercial accounts.
In little more than a year on the job, Tidd has provided the maverick spark that D-Link needed to pack a bigger punch in the intensely competitive SMB networking market. You can see it in the channel programs, the marketing and the flat-out more aggressive market-share grab in areas as diverse as security/surveillance, storage, switching and its traditional sweet spot, wireless networking. It's not surprising given Tidd's heavyweight status as a seasoned channel veteran who before coming to D-Link was driving 3Com's channel business.
You've got to be a maverick to lead the sales charge at Apple with its "engineering first, marketing second and sales channels last" ethos. CEO Steve Jobs gets all the credit for the engineering breakthroughs and marketing magic, but it is Brandon who directs the day-to-day sales effort and has to put up the numbers that will either wow or disappoint Wall Street. Brandon has done it with a very tightly controlled channel strategy, blending Apple's own retail stores, retailers and VARs bringing Apple deeper into corporate America. You can't argue with success. Look for more sales alchemy from Brandon in 2010.