New Intel Global Channel Chief Vows To Bust Barriers For Partners

‘We have extraordinary capabilities across this incredibly huge company. There’s lots of different partner motions or things that are happening across the company. I want to increasingly bring those into alignment so that we bring the full weight and capability of this awesome company to help our partners do [job] No. 1, which is help them grow,’ says John Kalvin, Intel’s new global channel chief, in an interview with CRN.

Intel’s new global channel chief intends to ensure the semiconductor giant continues to break down barriers within the company and across the ecosystem to make the partner experience simpler.

In an interview with CRN, John Kalvin said the priorities of Intel’s partner organization are three-fold: finding ways to help partners grow, creating better integration across Intel’s ecosystem of partners and within the company itself, and simplifying the partner experience.

“It’s relatively self-explanatory, but I think we have to wake up every day and put ourselves in the shoes of the partners: What are their opportunities? What are the challenges that they face? How are we using our technology and our programs to help them be successful in their business?” Kalvin said. “If we do that, our business results will be just fine.”

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The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company in December promoted 23-year company veteran Kalvin to the role of vice president and general manager of global scale and partners, a role previously held by Greg Baur, who retired at the end of last year. Kalvin was previously Intel’s head of global consumer sales and has held numerous other roles, including working with OEMs and system builders.

The new role puts Kalvin in charge of Intel’s global partner strategy and programs, which includes Intel Partner Alliance, the new partner program launched at the beginning of this year that consolidates multiple partner programs and brings together tens of thousands of partners of different types. He is also responsible for scaling Intel’s customer support operations worldwide.

To help seize on the “extraordinary amount of opportunities” partners have with Intel, Kalvin said he is pushing to have Intel break down more barriers within the company so that partners can have a simpler experience in accessing the chipmaker’s vast pool of resources. The company’s partner programs already make use of resources across the organization, like Intel Select Solutions, which taps into business units for subject matter expertise. But Kalvin said there is more work to do.

“We have extraordinary capabilities across this incredibly huge company,” he said. “There’s lots of different partner motions or things that are happening across the company. I want to increasingly bring those into alignment so that we bring the full weight and capability of this awesome company to help our partners do [job] No. 1, which is help them grow.”

Kalvin said Intel has already been improving integration of the ecosystem through the Intel Partner Alliance, which consolidated previously disparate programs like the Intel Technology Provider Program and Intel Cloud Insider. The new program has gone a long way in simplifying the partner experience, he added, but he promised improved capabilities in the years to come.

“We have a journey ahead of us, but I want to make it simpler for our partners to tap into all the resources and capabilities at Intel, so that, collectively, we don’t expend too much energy on the partnership itself and more energy focused on getting the work done of advancing the world through technology and helping our partners,” he said.

With Intel’s top competitors, AMD and Nvidia, continuing to ramp up investments in their respective partner programs, Kalvin said it’s paramount that he listens to the feedback of partners and reflects that “back across the organization to make sure that the whole company wakes up every day and thinks, ‘how do I make partners successful?’”

Kalvin said Intel’s partners face many opportunities as the pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of many organizations, further continuing the “explosion of data” that has created openings for new kinds of services and solutions.

“We believe that a lot of those transformations that have been set into motion are not going backwards,” he said. “They’re here to stay and will accelerate.”

This means partners should have a “very clear strategy for the era of distributed intelligence as computing becomes pervasive,” Kalvin said. These strategies will often involve what new Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger has called the four “superpowers” — AI, 5G, the intelligent edge and cloud — key inflection points that are “disrupting” and “transforming” markets.

But to take advantage of these opportunities, according to Kalvin, partners will need to rethink how they partner together, which is one major area the new Intel Partner Alliance program is trying to address.

“If we’re building solutions, it takes distribution, manufacturing, you got to design the things, you got to move them around the world, you got to add software and services, you got to create solutions, and I think it’s really important for all of us to think about how we partner to do it,” Kalvin said. “Nobody can do it alone.”

Wallace Santos, CEO of Maingear, a Kenilworth, N.J.-based PC system builder for the enthusiast market, said while Intel has long been the leader in tool sets for partners, the company has done a lot of work in modernizing and making them easier with the new Intel Partner Alliance program.

“Even things like regular [market development funds] filing, it’s just easier now,” he said.

But more importantly, Santos said, Intel has a “whole new energy” that has generated excitement among partners. He thinks this is happening at least in part because Intel has faced increasingly serious competition from rivals over the last few years. AMD has continued to push out new CPUs over the last few years that challenge Intel on performance and price while Nvidia is making major strides in cementing itself as the leader of accelerated computing.

“Whenever a company is not the performance leader, so to speak, they tend to kind of take a step back and want to become the best partner,” Santos said of Intel.

Santos said one example of Intel’s new energy is the way it engages with the enthusiast PC community and works with partners like Maingear as part of those efforts. This includes a new marketing campaign by Intel for its 11th-generation Core processors called “Rise, Shine & Inspire” that features stories about enthusiast community members, such as Twitch streamers.

“It’s a really cool program, where, essentially, they’re saying, ‘it’s not about just promoting our brand, it’s about giving back to the community,’” he said.

A key aspect of Intel’s “Rise, Shine & Inspire” campaign is that each partner, including Maingear, will get their own time frame to publish their own content so that each partner has a chance to stand out, according to Santos. For example, Intel partner CyberPowerPC recently published a video about how two Twitch streamers formed a friendship through role-play servers on Grand Theft Auto Online.

“I feel like we’re not competing with each other,” Santos said. “They’re saying, ‘hey, let’s work with each individual partner to make sure that we get the message nice and clear across.’”

This marks a different approach from previous eras where Intel was more focused on shipping the best products and less on brand-building, according to Santos. This kind of brand-building can go a long way in helping partners grow their own businesses, he added.

“If Intel has a strong brand, selling a strong brand in my systems just helps me sell more systems,” he said.