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IBM And HP Channel Chiefs Take Home Top ARC Awards

VARBusiness has honored IBM channel veteran Frank Vitagliano as the 2003 VARBusiness Lifetime Achievement Award winner, and HP's Kevin Gilroy, vice president and general manager for HP Americas commercial channels, as the 2003 VARBusiness Channel Executive of the Year.

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Both executives were recognized this week in Florida at the CMP XChange '03 conference, where VARBusiness announced the winners of its Annual Report Card (ARC) survey, one of the industry's oldest and most trusted measures of partner satisfaction. (CMP Media is the publisher of VARBusiness.)

For Vitagliano, the Lifetime Achievement Award is the crowning point in a career spent in and around the partner community. As evidenced by the ovation he received from solution providers and fellow channel executives from other companies in attendance at VARBusiness' gala awards ceremony Tuesday evening, Vitagliano is finally getting the recognition outside the company that has already been conferred upon him within IBM.

Ironically, Vitagliano, the man perhaps most associated with IBM's channel programs today, once considered pursuing a more traditional career path within IBM -- one that would have sent him to other geographies as well as other units within IBM's vast technology and business empire. However, mentor and former IBM channels architect Dave Boucher advised him to become one of IBM's few channels specialists. For both personal and professional reasons, Vitagliano chose to stay in channels, much to Boucher's delight.

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Frank Vitagliano, IBM, accepts this year's VARBusiness Lifetime Achievement Award from his longtime mentor, Dave Boucher.

"He truly is an example of a young man with promise who grew to accept the challenges that he took on and then made the most out of his opportunities," said Boucher, who retired from IBM in 2000 after spending 16 of his 30 years at IBM in channel management.

Vitagliano, IBM's current vice president of distribution channels management for the IBM Personal Computing Division, says he is not ready to step aside just yet, but nonetheless acknowledges he has reached a milestone in his career.

"Boucher's insight was that IBM would need pure channel expertise given that so much of its revenue, especially in PCs, comes from the channel," said Vitagliano, who began his career at IBM in 1973. "And he was spot-on in his thinking."

For 10 years, Vitagliano worked in a variety of sales and marketing positions. In 1986, Vitagliano joined the company's U.S. Channel Sales organization as a marketing manager with responsibility for all PC and midrange sales through Business Partners in the Southeast. In 1993, he moved on to serve as the executive assistant to the president of IBM Personal Computer Co. Several years later, he was handed worldwide go-to-market strategy for IBM PSG Client Systems.

Among other things, Vitagliano built a reputation for his exhaustive use of research, including IBM's Routes to Profitability study. That information helped IBM leverage and embrace indirect sales in ways it could never have imagined. It also put to rest many of the lingering questions around whether the company should sell more PC products directly to customers at the expense of the channel. That study helped IBM remain the ally to solution providers that it is today.

As for Gilroy, he becomes VARBusiness second Channel Executive of the Year award winner. On hand in Florida this week to help recognize Gilroy for his work -- as well as pick up an ARC award for having the most satisfied partners in the security management software category -- was VARBusiness' inaugural Channel Executive of the Year, Allyson Seelinger, vice president of channel management at Symantec.

VARBusiness editors chose Gilroy for his groundbreaking work in helping to define, recognize and reward new-partner business models and activities, as well as his company's performance in this year's ARC study. This year, HP tied with Sun for first place in the Advanced Desktops and Workstations category, while sweeping every subcategory (support, partnership and partner innovation) en route to an overall win in the Entry-Level Server category. HP also had the highest loyalty among Storage Management Software companies.

However, the selection of Gilroy as Channel Executive of the Year is not without controversy, as many solution providers have struggled to maintain close ties to HP. That includes Manchester Technologies, an HP solution provider based in Hauppauge, N.Y. In a recent VARBusiness interview, president and CEO Barry Steinberg says HP has marginalized the channel with its own direct sales efforts. "They're taking the low-hanging fruit," he said.

While some of HP's policies have been controversial, Gilroy, a 22-year HP veteran, has made advances on behalf of channel partners. For starters, he has worked internally to promote business partners, whom some inside HP would have otherwise marginalized had not Gilroy fiercely defended them when HP and Compaq came together and crafted plans to battle Dell and other rivals. Among other things, Gilroy has been instrumental in helping persuade HP executive management, including Carly Fiorina, to speak more often and more openly with financial analysts, market investors and industry peers about the value HP derives from business partners.

Gilroy also stood out this year for his work in rearchitecting HP's massive PartnerOne program, which melded the best of 40 different HP and Compaq programs into a single, comprehensive blueprint for engaging the world's second largest computing company. It debuted last November. Not only did Gilroy help roll out the program on time, but he also followed up as promised in the spring with additional opportunities for smaller partners that were marginalized after PartnerOne was initially unveiled.

"We know we have made many strides, but are adamant that more needs to be done and are committed to working to make things simpler, better and more profitable for our partners," Gilroy said.

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