Partners Give Thumbs-Up To Juniper's Channel, Commercial Sales Unit Merger

Even if it means another executive shake-up to swallow, solution providers Thursday gave their nod of approval in response to Juniper's plans to merge its channel and commercial sales organizations.

"Anytime a company aligns its channel with its field [sales] organization, it's better," said Bill Xydias, director of marketing at Integration Partners, a Lexington, Mass.-based solution provider and Juniper partner. "It's promising. And, it also allows them to be more focused, because what happens is [the channel and field sales organizations] tend to create these teams that are independent of one another, and they have their own mission or marching order. But when they align, it means everyone is working toward the same direction."

Juniper on Thursday announced a series of changes to its channel organization, including plans to combine its channel division and commercial sales division into one, under the leadership of David Helfer, the company's newly appointed vice president of worldwide channels and commercial.

[Related: Juniper Accelerates Launch Of Contrail SDN Controller ]

Sponsored post

Helfer, whose previous role at Juniper was vice president of channels, distribution and alliances for Europe, Middle East and Africa, is replacing Juniper's former worldwide channel chief Emilio Umeoka. Juniper said Umeoka -- one of several high-level Juniper executives to have left the company over the past several months -- made a personal decision to leave.

In addition to assuming Umeoka's responsibilities as global channel chief, Helfer will oversee Juniper's commercial sales unit, which, he said, largely targets enterprise accounts through a "territory-based model." Helfer told CRN it made sense to blend the channel and commercial sales organizations, given the increased "synergies" Juniper noticed between the two.

"What we noticed is that, over the past couple of years, the commercial teams and the partner teams had so many synergies," Helfer said. "We wanted to bring the worldwide function and the strategy function and the execution function together, at a global level."

As Juniper's channel and commercial sales divisions combine, Juniper said partners will start to notice increased collaboration between partner account managers and commercial account managers, in which both groups will work hand-in-hand with partners to target specific geographic territories.

And most Juniper partners, it seems, are applauding the move.

John O'Shea, senior vice president of Vology, a Tampa, Fla.-based solution provider, said greater alignment between Juniper's channel and commercial sales organization could make it faster, and easier, for partners to do business with Juniper.

"If it means less people that we have to get involved with to get a resolution, that's always a good thing," O'Shea said. "I have seen, in the past, some organizations go through his type of shift where they have recognized that perhaps ... its sales organization isn't working seamlessly with partners, so I welcome it in that regard.

NEXT: Partners Chime In On Juniper Executive Changes

Jason Gress, founder and president of InterVision Systems Technologies, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based solution provider, said much of InterVision's Juniper business already fell under the commercial sales organization, so the merger with the channel division seems like a logical next step.

"It will create a lot of synergy and, as they align, more consistency for channel partners," Gress said.

Gress also said he was happy to see Helfer, a 13-year Juniper vet, at the helm of the newly merged unit. Juniper also on Thursday appointed Doug Erickson, former senior director of enterprise strategy and planning, as its new vice president of worldwide partner programs and development, another move applauded by Gress.

"They're veterans of Juniper, and I think promoting internally gives the organization more of a hit-the-ground-running strategy, versus bringing folks in from outside," Gress told CRN.

As for Umeoka's departure -- which follows that of Juniper's former North American channel chief Frank Vitagliano this March, along with the announced retirement of CEO Kevin Johnson in August -- partners said they haven't felt any major impacts on their businesses just yet.

"None of [these executive changes] have really affected us yet because the local channel teams haven't changed," said Pat Grillo, president and CEO of Atrion Communication Resources, a Branchburg, N.J.-based solution provider. "We've haven't noticed any changes yet."

Chris Becerra, vice president of sales at Terrapin Systems, a San Jose, Calif.- based solution provider, said he's not surprised to see another executive shake-up at Juniper, especially given the looming departure of Johnson. He is, however, anxious to hear how Juniper's new leadership team will help partners take advantage of one of the industry's most buzzed-about trends: software-defined networking.

"With Kevin Johnson on his way out, we kind of thought there would be some changes, and there probably will be some further changes. So, I'm not surprised," Becerra said. "I'm more concerned about how they address this whole open, software-defined networking approach in a way that's not cannibalizing some of their hard-margin technology."

PUBLISHED Oct. 3, 2013