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CRN Exclusive: Dell Names New Global Channel Chief, Full EMC Partner Program Integration Set For Feb. 1

Dell Tuesday named John Byrne as the new global channel chief of Dell-EMC, tasking the 27-year sales veteran with combining two disparate channel organizations as part of the largest IT acquisition in history.

Dell Tuesday named John Byrne as the new global channel chief of Dell-EMC, tasking the 27-year sales veteran with combining two disparate channel organizations as part of the largest IT acquisition in history.

"Together we are primed to win. Those are easy words to say, but I mean it. We're going to bring two phenomenal companies together with a portfolio that frankly is unsurpassed in the marketplace," Byrne said in an exclusive interview with CRN. "We want our channel partners to work with us and take those products to the market aggressively. My commitment is they're going to be profitable."

Byrne was brought into Dell a year ago on the advice of Chief Integration Officer Rory Read, who had previously worked with Byrne at AMD. Byrne joined the Round Rock, Texas-based company as global vice president of sales strategy and operations. A few months later Dell quietly added channels to his title, with Cheryl Cook, vice president of global channels and alliances for the past three years, reporting to him, and he’s been overseeing Dell’s channel ever since.

[Related: Dell-EMC's New Global Channel Chief Talks About Pushing The Full Portfolio, Eliminating Channel Conflict And The Drive To Beat HP, Cisco And Lenovo]

In an exclusive interview with CRN, Byrne said in coming months he'll be meeting with partners, building out the company's channel organization and making specific decisions about programs and personnel over with the aim of establishing a single channel program for the combined company by the beginning of Dell's fiscal year Feb. 1.

Prior to the Feb. 1 deadline, Byrne has a number of key decisions to make regarding the shape and character of the new combined channel program. Among the four specific areas that need to be resolved are whether the new company maintains the EMC channel "hard deck" that dictates all but its largest accounts go through the channel; channel incentives, including back-end rebates, front-end incentives and Market Development Funds (MDF), as well as the distribution strategy. Finally, Byrne will have to sort out whether the sales coverage model will maintain the regional focus currently utilized by Dell or migrate toward the global model deployed by EMC.

In the roughly four months between the close of the $62 billion acquisition, expected in October, and the launch of the new program, the two companies' channel programs will run in parallel, but will use a single deal registration process and sales pipeline. All sales reps' quotas will be reset, and the companies' sales teams will be incented to work together.

In the meantime, Byrne is already working to adjust Dell's sales team quotas and incentives to drive new business through the channel.

"Incenting my own sales team is something Marius [Haas, Dell chief commercial officer and president of enterprise solutions] and I have been working on over the past year, to get out there and grab market share," Byrne said. "We're gaining market share in PCs, retaining our share in servers, and I want more. We want more. The biggest opportunity I see right now is with the channel. The channel business is going to grow, and it's going to grow aggressively."

Byrne's appointment, which the company announced internally via a memo, puts to rest several months of speculation among solution providers about which executive would lead the channel charge after Dell completes its $62 billion acquisition of EMC later this year.

Chairman and CEO Michael Dell told CRN in an exclusive interview that Byrne has proven his ability to grow the channel business during his year-long tenure at the company, where he has been not only running channel operations but also developing the whole route-to-market for the combined Dell-EMC.


"We're really fortunate to have an incredible team of people in the company. But, not taking anything away from the rest of the team, we concluded John was the best captain for the team," Michael Dell said. "Our growth in the channel continues to be quite strong and healthy. John has led that. He's got a great background, and partners that don't know him will get to know him very quickly."

Byrne's appointment surprised some Dell solution providers because he has not had a long tenure with the company and because Dell enjoys a deep bench of channel management talent.

Bob Venero, CEO of Holbrook, N.Y.-based solution provider Future Tech, No. 167 on the CRN 2016 Solution Provider 500, said the choice of Byrne as worldwide channel chief is "somewhat of a curve ball, but having a good curve ball in your pocket wins games, and Dell is in this to win it."

"Byrne knows how to support and grow a channel," said Venero. "He gets the channel and understands pay-for-performance and partner alignment which is very important for a channel chief."

Venero said he was heartened by the confidence that Dell CEO Michael Dell and Dell Enterprise Solutions President Marius Haas have in Byrne.

"Michael and Marius have been spot on 100 percent of the time in picking great leaders in the channel," he said. "You don't see the channel turnover and turmoil at Dell that you see at other companies."

Venero praised Dell for its ability to integrate the companies it has acquired, like EqualLogic and Compellent, into a single channel program.

"Dell has done the best job of taking disparate companies and integrating them so partners can drive sales growth," he said.
Since Dell started its channel program eight years ago, Future Tech's Dell business has gone from zero to more than 50 percent of sales, said Venero. "We are looking forward to seeing additional growth under Byrne's leadership," he said.

Dan Serpico, CEO of San Francisco-based FusionStorm, No. 49 on the CRN SP500 and one of Dell's and EMC's top partners, said Byrne is a "strong well rounded executive" who will team with Haas to drive "continued momentum" for partners.

"Over the last four years, our Dell business has grown 10,000 percent, and it has grown even more this year," said Serpico. "That's a testimony to Marius and Dell having an appreciation for what the channel does and opening up incentives to drive partnerships with solution providers like us."


The investments Dell has made in the channel, including robust back-end rebates and MDF, is as "big or as strong as any other OEM partner that we have today," said Serpico. "That has helped us grow our business tremendously. We absolutely are looking forward to Dell and EMC taking the best of each partner program to further accelerate our growth. If you can take the hard deck from EMC, the rebates and co-op from Dell, and the field relationships from both it is a truly winning combination."

Dell executives haven't made any final decisions about other channel positions within the combined Dell-EMC, but sources said key sales and channel executives like Dell channel chief Cook; Dell Vice President North America Commercial Sales Jim DeFoe; Dell President of North America and Global 500 Sales Bill Rodrigues; Dell Vice President of North American Channels Frank Vitagliano, as well as and EMC Channel Chief Gregg Ambulos, EMC President of Americas Sales John Hanlon and the EMC commercial mid-market team are likely to have positions in the combined company.

Byrne will oversee all Dell-EMC channel operations, and will report directly to Haas. He'll also have a direct line to Bill Scannell, EMC's global sales chief who will become president of enterprise sales in the combined company.

"[Channels] is our largest route to market, and we wanted to put our best guy on it," Haas said, of Byrne. "We brought John into the company knowing that he's going to have a big role, and we didn't have the right role for him off the bat, but he's done a phenomenal job with the role he's got, and now he's going to take this to the next level. We're all about how do we get great athletes to come join the team, and we put them in a place where they can succeed. This is a great spot for John."

Byrne said he wants EMC partners not currently working with Dell to take a close look at what his company has to offer.

"Our channel business is up dramatically, and [Dell partners are] excited about adding EMC to the portfolio. The EMC partners, I want to bring the Dell enterprise portfolio to them," Byrne said. "We have 60 percent overlap in the EMC and Dell partner ecosystem. That other 40 percent, I want them selling the whole Dell portfolio, and despite what the competition says, I want us to be overly aggressive, overly competitive. We'll reward partners that are attacking the marketplace."

Steve Burke contributed to this story.

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