Vitagliano Promises Channel Changes at Juniper

One is that Juniper is fully committed to working with partners. Another is that he’ll work to improve channel-field relations and make the company easier to do business with, issues some partners have been grappling with.

“My message to partners is that our first priority is to grow our revenue and our partners’ [revenue],” Vitagliano said during an interview last week.

In his first interview with CRN since taking over as Juniper’s vice president of worldwide channels, Vitagliano praised the work of Juniper’s channel team and his predecessor, Tushar Kothari, for progress made in building up Juniper’s enterprise networking and security channel over the past year-and-a-half, repeatedly noting that “nothing is broken.”

Nevertheless, there is room for improvement, he said.

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As part of its efforts to grow its channel business, Juniper will continue to invest in its channel strategy, an investment that will include the tweaking and tuning of its J-Partner channel program, Vitagliano said.

In the spotlight is the ease with which partners can do business with Juniper, he said. In particular, Vitagliano is looking for ways to improve access to the vendor’s Easy8 deal registration program and ease service activation, he said.

“We need to bring partners earlier into the opportunity so they have the ability to sell their products and services,” he said.

In addition, Juniper will work to improve relations between its partners and its direct sales force. Vitagliano said feedback from partners about engagements in the field has for the most part been positive, but that some partners “tell me that in some cases it’s spotty.”

“For the direct folks who don’t spend every day in the channel, they might not have as good an appreciation for what the channel does. We will work on that,” he said.

While details of program tweaks were still being worked out, partners will start to see evidence of changes over the next 90 days, he said.

At the same time, Vitagliano will ask partners to commit to Juniper. “I’m going to ask them to invest in us, invest in training, learn about our products,” he said.

However, Vitagliano said he will stop short of asking for exclusivity from Juniper’s channel partners. “I think that has to be a partner’s own decision. The partner has to decide what it needs to do to solve customer problems,” he said.

In many cases, the former IBM-er admits he is still getting up to speed on Juniper’s channel strategy and product offerings, likening his first three weeks on the job to “drinking from a fire hose.”

He has already begun reaching out to partners to elicit feedback, and has also spent time internally to learn about the inner workings of the company. It’s so early in his tenure that he yet to figure out what Juniper’s channel budget is or whether it has grown this year compared to last year, he said. He also has yet to dig into issues such as distribution and managed services to assess Juniper’s position in those areas. He said that is something he will be doing in coming weeks.

Still, when he takes the stage to address partners at the J-Partner Summit in Las Vegas on May 1, Vitagliano said his message will be clear.

“We will communicate that the channel can depend on us, and we will depend on the channel,” he said. “[Juniper Chairman and CEO] Scott [Kriens] has talked about having a ‘deliberate dependence’ on the channel. I’ve heard that a number of times here, and I think it’s perfect.”