Extreme Networks' Norman Rice: 5 Things To Know About Extreme's Channel Strategy In 2020

Extreme Networks is shifting channel responsibilities out into its geographies. Additionally, partners can expect more incentives around cloud, software, and services, says Extreme's COO Norman Rice.


Channel Changes

Extreme Networks, since acquiring Aerohive Networks last year, has been going through a major transition as the two companies combine forces.

The San Jose, Calif.-based networking firm is dealing with an executive shakeup with the departure of its channel chief and one of its Asia-Pacific channel leaders in late 2019. The company's chief revenue officer and interim channel leader also left the firm in early February, leaving Extreme to make some much-needed channel changes, Extreme Networks Chief Operating Officer Norman Rice told CRN.

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While it's newly-minted channel program -- which combines the best of Extreme and Aerohive's former programs, according to the company -- will remain intact, Rice laid out Extreme's channel plans moving forward, including the company's decision to forgo the role of channel chief and instead move channel responsibilities out to managers located within specific geographies to make partner support more local. He also shared what partners can expect from the technology perspective from Extreme in 2020, and its focus on selling more cloud and subscriptions.

Here are excerpts from the conversation.

How will Extreme's leadership changes will impact the channel?

The channel is the most important avenue to market for Extreme. Over 70 percent of our business goes through our channels. Our objectives are to always reduce the sales friction, whether it's through incentives, training, or tools we are providing so our partners can go out and be autonomous in their ability to transact business and deliver services. It’s our foremost investment -- the partner community -- and we are going to build on that and move forward.

We felt it was time to consolidate the channel into the [geographies] so we can execute better at a local level.

Is Extreme on the hunt for a new channel chief?

We do not intend on adding a global channel chief. What we decided to do on a permanent basis is have our teams responsible for account management and delivery with the channel are going to report into the geo-leads -- we have two: Kyle Brown, director of the Americas Channel will report to Pete Dolittle, senior vice president of Americas Sales for better and smoother execution and outcomes. In the international markets in international markets, Sean Collins, senior director of EMEA channels for Extreme will be reporting to John Morrison, senior vice president for Extreme Networks' EMEA markets, who has also assumed responsibility for Extreme's Asia-Pacific region. The two of them, like the U.S. team, will align the field for execution.

Will there be any changes to the Extreme channel programs?

Channel programs themselves, which are run by [Natalia Vianden Earn, director of global channel program] will remain intact. We rolled those out in November and those were effective Jan. 1, so they will roll through the entire year as is.

We built a program that was built around incentivizing our partners as they go through the cloud transition, where we think the biggest opportunity is around managed services as they are part of this cloud expansion. What we found with our partners and why we rolled out this program is to enable and provide flexibility to be able to use and accelerate our cloud into the marketplace during this transition. Our cloud platform has been a big focus for us. You'll see our incentives are more heavily weighted toward cloud, subscriptions, and the sale of more software and services than they have in the past.

What can the channel expect to see from a technology innovation perspective?

From the technology perspective, we rolled out our Retail Select solution offering in January, which is a prescriptive set of technologies with a cloud wrapper that is targeted at retail stores and is offered to partners and customers. We'll be offering future versions of that for other verticals, like healthcare or education, in the coming weeks or months.

You're going to see additional capabilities coming out across the portfolio as we continue to refresh. We have new switches coming to market and new access points around the stratification of our portfolio within the Wi-Fi 6 family. There's constant innovation around the cloud delivery platform. We run in two-week sprints, and you'll see a series of services and announcements coming out, whether it's around security or further enablement of managed services coming through our cloud technologies in the coming weeks and months.

What's your message to partners in 2020?

The primary message is we are focused on developing the partner community and reducing sales friction. We are creating the incentives for partners to be able to earn more revenue, faster, and achieve better outcomes in terms of economics for them and for the end use for our customers.

Overall, the way I look at having the channel report into the geos will give them more autonomy and more input into the go-forward plans programs. They'll be able to adapt at a local level much better than they have in the past. There are different nuances if you are in the U.S. in the Midwest versus if you are in southern Germany or Japan. Giving the local territories more autonomy to meet the needs of local partners and local market dynamics, we believe will empower them further and create better outcomes.