COLUMN: Three Channel Chiefs To Keep An Eye On In 2024

CRN’s Jennifer Follett is paying close attention to three channel chiefs, two of whom recently stepped into new roles. All three are tasked with delivering sales success amid rocky economic terrain.

We’re two months into 2024 and it’s already shaping up to be a doozy.

The frenetic GenAI buzz that pervaded much of last year continues to sizzle throughout the channel as solution providers rush to incorporate the technology into their own businesses and to build out strong use cases for customers.

Meanwhile, the fallout from seismic, market-changing vendor acquisitions is either upon us (Broadcom-VMware) or anticipated (Cisco Systems-Splunk, expected to close by the third quarter of 2024, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise-Juniper Networks, expected to close as early as the end of this year).

At the same time, several key channel executives have stepped into new roles in recent months as channel chiefs across the industry are tasked with delivering sales success amid rocky economic terrain.

With all of that in mind, here are the top three channel chiefs CRN will be keeping a close eye on this year.

1. Cynthia Loyd, vice president of global partner and commercial sales, Broadcom

Is there a tougher job than Loyd’s in the channel today? I’m hard-pressed to name one. Any goodwill the VMware channel was inclined to extend in the wake of Broadcom’s $69 billion acquisition was shattered in the ensuing months as the company abruptly dissolved the VMware partner program, killed off a number of VMware offerings and took top customers direct. After over two months of public silence since the deal closed, Loyd in early February published a blog post in which she pledged that Broadcom will be easier to do business with while offering more predictable profitability and increased support than what VMware partners saw previously. She now must move quickly to prove all of that is true to the 18,000-plus VMware partners invited to join the Broadcom Advantage Partner Program. The trouble is, many of those partners in the meantime have been wooed and even won over by VMware rivals. Loyd needs to get loud about the specifics of how Broadcom and solution providers will make money together so she can salvage as many VMware channel relationships as possible.

2. Denise Millard, chief partner officer, Dell Technologies

Dell was already riding a channel high after launching a visionary partner-first storage strategy a few months prior when it named Millard as its new channel chief in October. Now Millard is working to keep that momentum rolling with the launch earlier this month of new programs and incentives around PCs as well as better channel incentives targeting Dell’s Apex as-a-service offerings. This is a fine example of striking while the iron is hot. Not only is Dell’s channel strategy seemingly firing on all cylinders, but it’s doing so as one of its chief rivals, HPE, is in the midst of a sea change, having moved to a more nuanced partner compensation model for its GreenLake as-a-service portfolio that’s more rewarding for partners in some scenarios but less so in others. It is also preparing for the forthcoming—and potentially distracting—acquisition of Juniper. Millard has an opportunity to pounce, and early indicators are that she intends to take full advantage.

3. Rodney Clark, senior vice president of partnerships and SMB, Cisco

Clark spent the bulk of his career working at one channel stalwart—Microsoft—and now as of January has stepped into the channel chief role at another. He comes to Cisco at a critical moment: The company has made great strides in transitioning its product portfolio toward software but is facing revenue declines in its networking business, down 12 percent in the most recent quarter. It is advancing feverishly to boost its offerings in areas such as AI, security and observability, with no move more brazen than its plan to acquire Splunk for $28 billion. But two of its chief rivals— HPE, with its Aruba networking business, and Juniper—are in the midst of joining forces. It falls to Clark, then, to make the key moves necessary to enable current Cisco partners to take full advantage of the treasures Splunk brings while also making sure Splunk partners receive a warm welcome. And all of that must happen while he ramps up to arm his partners with the weapons they’ll need to fend off HPE-Juniper ahead of that deal closing.

These are just three examples of the many channel chiefs who could see tremendous upside if they can meet the challenges they face driving partner sales growth this year. We’ll be watching to see which ones triumph.

Which channel chiefs are you keeping an eye on this year? Let me know at [email protected].