Alcatel-Lucent: Building That Enterprise Channel Buzz

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It's been a long time since the buzz around Alcatel-Lucent's North America enterprise channel was this good.

A recent overhaul of the region's channel strategy and some big moves by its key executives are starting to impress a partner community that, if not totally ignored, could be fairly described as undernurtured.

"The channel in the past had an awareness problem, particularly in U.S. and Canada compared to the rest of the world," said Sandy Spencer, area vice president, channels, North America Enterprise Business, Alcatel-Lucent. "My focus is to come in and change that perception, and a lot of it goes back to some basic, fundamental practices, like treating the partners like partners."

[Related: Alcatel-Lucent Stakes 40 GbE Claim In Data Center Fabric Wars]

The North America enterprise getting lost in the broader context of Alcatel-Lucent is understandable in the corporate sense. Alcatel-Lucent's global enterprise business represents only about 10 percent to 12 percent of the Paris-based telecom giant's roughly 15.69 Euro ($19.8 billion) in annual revenue and, even then, its enterprise presence is better known in Europe and other geographies. No question it's the company's massive telecom businesses -- and announcements such as the May launch of Alcatel-Lucent's new monster 7950 XRS core router -- that get most of the headlines.

But solution providers and distributors interviewed by CRN said it wasn't just that North American enterprise solution providers were an afterthought. Reports of Alcatel-Lucent channel conflict have persisted for years and, even where there wasn't conflict, solution providers didn't feel as though they were aligned to the company's field sales teams, and, on the other hand, field reps weren't incentivized to work with the channel.

It appears a lot of that has changed, and in a recent discussion with CRN, Spencer highlighted two targeted moves that have started to make a difference.

Alcatel-Lucent's North America enterprise channel now numbers 270 partners, and Spencer -- with the backing of key executives such as Gus Vasilakis, vice president, North America -- have started the long process of realigning the North America channel program under Alcatel-Lucent's global channel program.

"For whatever reason, North America was doing some of its own things," Spencer said. "So we're migrating the channel back under the worldwide channel program, which is run by Jan Zuurbier [Alcatel-Lucent head of global sales]. That way, we can leverage all of those resources, those marketing programs, those MDF programs, those co-op programs, those pricing programs."

It's a slow process, Spencer emphasized, because Alcatel-Lucent's global presence means everything from different customs, tax and financial models throughout the world to leveraging distributors that are multiregional and multinational. But Spencer described the move as utterly necessary and one that Alcatel-Lucent expects to have finished by 2013.

"Any great channel has to be unified, at least if you're going to see the volume done by the Ciscos and Avayas and Junipers of the world," he said.

NEXT: Changing Alcatel-Lucent's Channel Culture

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