CRN Interview: Jim Harold, Enterasys

CRN: What are your initial thoughts on the status of the Enterasys channel?

Jim Harold: I think what they're delivering from a solutions standpoint is right on target now with Secure Networks, so I think they've got some great solutions. I'm walking into a situation where the enhanced partner program is coming out, and I think it's a great program. I'm kind of walking in when we're down on the goal line. So I'm not coming into Enterasys to make many changes from a channel perspective. I'm really coming in to carry this forward and grow the business. We announced the enhanced partner program at the partner conference [in March], so we're delivering on that now where we're bringing a lot more value to the partner program through segmentation, new partner designations, and it's very well received by the partner community. I think if you talk to most partners, they're excited about the fact that we're enhancing the program, enhancing their margin opportunity. I think the new solutions also give them an opportunity to drive a lot more professional services, and I think we're filling a big hole in the market now with our secure networking story.

CRN: What would you say is the primary objective you have right now, your primary goal?

Harold: I think coming in, it's to reinforce our commitment to a channel model, where I think part of that is just that they hired somebody in this role, so I think reinforcing with our partners our commitment to the market and building on our current partner model is probably number one. Number two is just executing on that, to continue to deliver on the rollout of our new partner program and new programs that enhance our relationship. We've got a couple of great programs: Seize the Opportunity, where a partner can come in with a new opportunity, register with us, and we'll protect them and enhance the margin capability on the deal. And then, come July, we're going to a segmented model where only our authorized partners will have access to our high-end products. A lot of people are really excited about that. So really we're getting to the point, with further segmentation, [where we're] delivering, I think, higher value to those partners who are investing in Enterasys.

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CRN: So this is more along the Cisco model where they try to restrict technology only to those partners that have the training?

Harold: Yeah, but it's more binary from the standpoint that we've just segmented the lower part of the product line versus some of the higher-end solutions, and a big, big focus really is us delivering on secure networking. The great news is we announced it, we're delivering the products today, so we're going to help expand that with our partner base. And they see that as a great opportunity for differentiation. Everybody's kind of scratching their heads [about how to] take security further into the infrastructure, and we can do that now, unlike a lot of our competitors, so we think that's a huge upside for us and our partners.

CRN: What's the biggest obstacle you think your channel partners face today as they're trying to sell Enterasys solutions, and what are you doing to help them get over that?

Harold: What we've heard before was branding. You know, "who is Enterasys?" So we launched a new campaign to push high-level branding with the company. We're doing advertising, so we'll provide that air cover through advertising, press and build upon the brand with Enterasys. And then the other piece is we'll try to drive more pointed demand-generation programs that they can execute at a local level.

CRN: Is that something that's in place right now or are you developing it?

Harold: Well, the high-level branding is, and I think from a local level, we're developing that right now.

CRN: What form do you think demand generation will take?

Harold: I've got to get an answer on that with the marketing folks.

CRN: Is partner recruitment something you're doing now or are you happy with the partner levels?

Harold: We'll do select recruiting, so what we're going to do is basically look at our program from the ground up, look from a regional standpoint and make sure that our partners are well-baked into our regional go-to-market plan, and then add partners selectively where that makes sense, where we don't have coverage. We've got a great partner base now. There are a lot of loyal Enterasys partners out there, so we will add some new partners but we'll do it very selectively where it makes sense.

CRN: As you looked over the steps Enterasys had taken with its channel in the past, was there anything that stood out as something you'd want to get away from or a mistake you'd want to make sure you don't repeat?

Harold: You know, I don't think there were any major mistakes. I think the big improvement I can bring is a connection from the field level, to make sure our regional partner managers are coordinated from a national standpoint. Really, it's driving a local plan from the region up, so if we've got coverage within a certain market with those key partners, we're going to further develop those relationships and build them. I think my role is kind of new because I can quarterback that now. I can coordinate two-tier distribution, I can coordinate the local plan within the region because we have partner managers that bottom-line report in to me from there, and then I also own the partner program.

CRN: What's ahead for you over the next few weeks?

Harold: I think the next few weeks is really [about] getting out and meeting with our key partners, being available, and reinforcing our message and pushing on the secure networking piece and Seize the Opportunity.