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John Borusheski, vice president of telecom and network products at Arrow Enterprise Computing Solutions, said a lot has changed now that Alcatel-Lucent's direct and channel sales forces are working more closely together.
"No question there are fewer issues that need to be resolved," Borusheski told CRN. "That helps us enable [partners] to come out and hit the street with knowledgeable salespeople. That and the wins and the better press they've been having -- that gets people's attention."
Arrow ECS, Englewood, Colo., first started working with Alcatel-Lucent in North America through its 2010 acquisition of Nu Horizons, and the portfolio represented the first major voice product on Arrow's line card, Borusheski said. Arrow solution providers have gotten particularly interested in Alcatel-Lucent's data center products and its OpenTouch collaboration suite, with which Alcatel-Lucent competes with Cisco and Avaya.
"Like a lot of engineering companies, they haven't focused as much on brand recognition," he said. "They are well known, especially on the carrier side, but they're not the type to go out and get the buzz going. We all need to look at more types of social media, in particular, to do that."
Alcatel-Lucent's immediate advantage is that its products work for varied enterprise needs and are available, Borusheski said. But not being overdistributed also will work in its favor, especially if Alcatel-Lucent can continue to offer competitive margins for the channel.
"The financial question for customers always depends on what they're trying to get done," he said. "But CIOs aren't as quick to chase shiny objects as they used to be. You have to be able to show ROI. Markets aren't as much there for overdistributed products, and here the channel has the opportunity to come in with a fresh approach. It's a big, well known company, but many find they can walk away with more money in their pocket than they thought possible."
Other partners are finding definite greenfield opportunity with Alcatel-Lucent's products. One such partner is ICON Voice Networks, an Irving, Texas-based solution provider and master distributor.
When ICON first started working with Alcatel-Lucent 14 months ago, it had an interesting problem to solve. ICON COO David Carissimi and ICON CEO Kevin Kelleher, who had worked together at the former Iwatsu America for decades, had just bought the assets of Iwatsu Voice Networks, becoming the exclusive distributor and maintenance provider of Iwatsu products in North America.
Most of ICON's 230-plus dealer channel, however, was focused on SMB, and targeting customers with bigger port needs and more sophisticated requirements. With Iwatsu products not fitting the bill in those cases, Carissimi said ICON starting evaluating other networking companies with U.S. presences and picked Alcatel-Lucent after an in-depth technology review.
"I was dumbfounded by what Alcatel had," Carissimi told CRN. "It is the most comprehensive umbrella portfolio of products in the industry today, bar none. They didn't have a name in SMB, and that was our forte. When we talked with them, our position was very simple: 'We have a channel in need of product, you have product in need of a channel.' "
Alcatel-Lucent quickly established that it wanted to build relationships at a street level, Carissimi said.
"What stood out is that they're a massively large company, but they operate at a business-to-business level like a small company," he said. "We have a mature dealer channel used to selling SMB. So they had to have that."
One thing that helped along the way, Carissimi said, was Alcatel-Lucent providing ICON a part-time employee based out of ICON's headquarters. ICON also held meetings with an independent consulting firm hired by Alcatel-Lucent to make its distribution relationships stronger and more efficient.
"The 10,000-foot view was how do we strengthen the relationships, business processes, marketing -- how do we acclimate with a better business plan," he said. "For a company of our size, that meant getting something tailored to us. Sandy [Spencer] and his team have really made a good effort in taking all the different components and building an ecosystem of partners. They've really developed an organization."