Siemens Enterprise's New Channel Chief Promises Program Makeover

"For the first time, Siemens has an indirect number," Samuels said in an interview this week, referring to resources Siemens will be devoting to its channel program. "All of the resources to do with indirect are now hard-lined as opposed to matrixed. We have truly put in an incentive program for the global sales force both for direct and indirect -- if you're a sales guy, there's great incentives for you to take stuff through channel partners, and there are also penalties for not making your indirect quota. We have really gone after this aggressively."

Samuels is a 30-year IT veteran, having served most recently as vice president of Global Business Development for Northrop Grumman. He was previously head of global managed services and service provider divisions at Avaya, senior vice president of products and services at Qwest, and held a number of executive positions at Lucent Technologies, Galileo International and British Airways.

Samuels is charged with revamping SEN Group's worldwide channel strategy, with a particular focus on the North American market. He's also entered Siemens at a time of significant transition for the company.

It's been more than a year since Siemens AG and the Gores Group formed Siemens Enterprise Communications Group as a joint venture. In that time, SEN Group has added indirect sales channels in 27 countries and earned itself a spot in the "leader" category in Gartner's magic quadrants for corporate telephony and unified communications. The agreement with Gores also gave Siemens Enterasys, which is now the network infrastructure and security division of SEN Group.

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SEN Group has also seen changes in its executive ranks. Former CEO James O'Neil, who was appointed in late 2008, left the company in June 2009 and was replaced by Gores Group chairman and former Siemens interim CEO Mark Stone. Siemens was also widely believed to have been in the running to buy bankrupt Nortel Networks' enterprise business, for which Avaya was named the winning bidder in September.

All of which Samuels must take into account as he's charged with transitioning the traditionally direct sales-oriented Siemens into a potential channel powerhouse.

"It has to start from the top, and at the top of the company, there was a direct-centric culture," Samuels said. "Mark Stone is intent on making Siemens indirect, and that that is going to be a big part of our future. It's about scaling and growth, not taking from the left pocket and putting money in the right pocket. Both Mark and I come from the channel world, he from Bearing Point, and he knows what the systems integrator landscape looks like. For me, coming in, it was important to hear that from the CEO. As long as I felt sure about that, I was in. How often do you get a vendor that has a direct mentality for so many years that is really willing to come in to the channel and try to switch the culture? We are serious."

Samuels said he has spent his first six months reaching out to Siemens' existing channel community: systems integrators, VARs, service providers, ISVs and distributors. He's hired new channel management in most geographies and is developing a new channel subscription pricing model to make pricing more consistent for partners around the world. Samuels also sees the current climate in the networking, communications and infrastructure segments as an ideal period for Siemens to make a channel splash. The economy has thrown channel business into a tailspin, but the recent wave of M&A -- from Cisco's buying spree to HP's intended acquisition of 3Com -- has also left partners seeking alternatives, he argued.

"If you are running a reseller business and seeing consolidation, does that mean your portfolio is expanding, or shrinking?" he said. "A lot of resellers are looking at that and saying we need an alternative with experience. The consolidation is absolutely playing to our strengths and we're seeing that played out in how many partners have approached us this year."

"We are flexible," Samuels continued. "If your answer is an on-premise solution, we have that for you. If the answer is leveraging applications so you don't have to forklift them out, we have that for you. If the answer is cloud computing, we have that for you. If the answer is hosted, we have that for you. If the answer is integrating with social networking tools like Twitter, we have that for you. If it's a solution requiring subscription pricing, or a SOA [services-oriented architecture] solution, or a vertical solution, we have that for you."

Samuels is in the process of building a partner advisory board made up of Siemens channel partners from different regions. He plans to gather that board twice a year -- in May and November, starting in 2010 -- along with the leaders of SEN Group's business units, as well as hold less formal meetings in various geographies to hear from partners about product sales and channel concerns.

The Enterasys portfolio will be a priority, he added, as it continues to be integrated as a Siemens brand. He will also focus on growing Siemens' OpenScape voice and OpenScape UC platforms, and firming up SEN Group's position in crucial vertical markets like health care and public sector that are ripe for channel business.

"Companies are told to do more with less and letting go of people resources. The brunt of that falls on the IT department," Samuels said. "Some of these systems in the enterprise have been cobbled together over the years, and are aging. There's a huge opportunity for us to go in and change that."