The Top 100 Executives Of 2017

With digital transformation in full swing, the leaders making the grade in the 2017 CRN Top 100 class are adept at making big, bold technology bets and then executing on those gambits in the sales trenches.

That kind of leadership is particularly evident in the choice of Dell Technologies CEO Michael Dell, the onetime PC pioneer and technology whiz kid turned industry disrupter, as the No. 1 executive on our Most Influential list.

Dell pulled off the biggest acquisition in the history of the IT business and then distinguished himself this year by expertly managing the integration of storage market leader EMC into Dell and personally leading the sales charge of the combined company.

Partners say Dell's hands-on role driving the channel sales engine has been a critical factor in the success of the $67 billion blockbuster acquisition of EMC. With the one-year anniversary of the deal on the horizon, partners say Dell is delivering big time for customers and the channel.

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Douglas Grosfield, CEO of Five Nines IT, a Kitchener, Ontario, strategic service provider that is driving digital transformation with a portfolio of recurring revenue services, says leaders like Michael Dell are thriving in the digital transformation era because of their ability to buck the status quo.

"Michael is a different breed," said Grosfield. "He has that desire to do something different rather than stick to the old ways of thinking and business. He is truly merging together products and services at Dell that makes it a wholly different company than it was a year or two ago. Michael had the foresight to look ahead, go to where the puck is going and then roll up his sleeves and do the hard work to make it happen. I think his shareholders are going to see the benefits of his foresight in the next few years."

Grosfield, who sold his MSP business nearly two years ago to start Five Nines as a new-era strategic service provider, said Dell is the perfect role model for the digital transformation era. "Service providers have had to do the same thing when it comes to reinventing their own business," he said.

It's not just Dell that has exhibited the technology and digital transformation skills that are driving a dramatic shift to the strategic service provider business model in the channel.

Our No. 1 choice in the Disrupter category -- Keerti Melkote, the co-founder of Aruba Networks, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise subsidiary -- is a technology visionary who continues to drive robust double-digit sales growth in the channel trenches. At the same time, Melkote continues to push the software technology envelope with a new core network switch and operating system and an upcoming SD-WAN offering.

Our top Innovator, Hewlett Packard Enterprise President Antonio Neri, a 22-year HPE veteran who remains an engineer at heart, has put HPE at the top of the next-generation infrastructure pyramid with game-changing acquisitions like SimpliVity and Nimble and then backed it up with an all-out HPE channel sales offensive.

In the Sales Leader category, our choice for No. 1 is still Bill Lipsin, the driving force behing a robust increase in NetApp's channel business in the past two years, who is leaving the company effective Aug. 18. Lipsin, a 12-year channel sales eteran, provided the channel and technology leadership at a time when NetApp had fallen behind its peers in both product development and sales.

Grosfield says it is the businesses and customers that embrace digital transformation that will thrive in a market that is moving at an ever faster and faster clip.

"I have been in this industry 25 years and built several companies and I have never seen this business move faster than it is now," he said. "I have never seen the absolute requirement to adapt to change as quickly as I am today in the strategic service provider era"

"Those companies not embracing digital transformation are destined to die a 'death by a thousand cuts,'" said Grosfield, whose sales are up 400 percent this year with profits more than double the traditional solution provider business model.

"You have to lead customers to the promised land in spite of their reluctance to do so," added Grosfield. "Their businesses depend on being able to embrace emerging technologies to gain competitive advantage. The hard reality of business is you have to evolve or you get left behind. The businesses that evolve are going to shape our world for the next several decades. Executives like Michael Dell are on the leading edge of this change."

The 25 Most Influential Executives Of 2017
Here we present this year's class of the 25 Most Influential individuals in the technology industry.

The Top 25 Disrupters Of 2017
As part of the Top 100 Executives Of 2017, CRN looks at 25 execs that are throwing a curveball at the technology world.

The Top 25 Innovators Of 2017
As part of the Top 100 Executives Of 2017, CRN looks at 25 execs that are setting the tone in the technology world.

The Top 25 Channel Sales Leaders Of 2017
As part of the Top 100 Executives of 2017, CRN looks at 25 channel sales executives that really stood out as they worked to bring success to their partners.