CRN Exclusive: Fortinet Channel Chief Plans Team Expansion, Partner Program Updates

Fortinet is looking to make further investments in the channel in 2017, Vice President of Americas Channels and Emerging Technologies Joe Sykora said in an exclusive interview with CRN.

Sykora said Fortinet plans to update its partner program in early 2017, looking to simplify the price list, set the foundation for consistent partner communications, and build on investments in co-branded marketing campaigns and technical training through the Fortinet Knowledge Center.

Sykora said Fortinet also plans to add more resources to its channel team, including sales engineers, in the new year, following on a restructuring of its sales teams in early 2016.

[Related: CRN Exclusive: Fortinet Launches New FortiOS, Security Operations Solution]

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"This is a huge investment for us," Sykora said. "Going into planning for 2017 [we were asking]: what does the channel need? It's really simplifying business with Fortinet, making them more profitable and giving them what they need to understand these technologies and solutions and be able to market them," he said.

This week Sykora is attending Fortinet's Accelerate 2017 partner event in Las Vegas; the event has more than 1,300 attendees from 696 partner companies.

From there, Fortinet will also be formally introducing Senior Vice President of Global Marketing Stacey Wu. Wu joined Fortinet from Avaya last month to fill Fortinet's top marketing role, which has been left vacant since the departure of former CMO Holly Rollo in March. Sykora said Fortinet plans to make additional investments in marketing, strategic initiatives and demand generation for partners in 2017 under Wu's leadership.

Sykora also highlighted the growth the security vendor has seen for some of its partner initiatives in 2016, including its XTreme technical training events, FortiExpress marketing truck, Cyber Threat Assessments, NSE certifications and Security Academy.

David DeCamillis, vice president of sales and marketing at Platte River Networks, a Denver-based Fortinet partner, said Fortinet has consistently stepped up on technology support, deal registration, discounted pricing, and marketing funds for his company.

"Fortinet is the only vendor we work with that we can always depend on to step up when we have a need," DeCamillis said.

DeCamillis said he would like to see Fortinet prioritize investments that "make it easier on partners and our access to all the channel resources." He said he would like to see Fortinet also push simplicity, especially around procurement, engineer training, marketing funds and support.

"I am hopeful that Fortinet will continue to build their brand recognition and acceptance within their space. I am also hopeful that Fortinet will continue to support and work with its partners as they have with us since we became a partner five years ago. I’d hate to see the model change where we lose that access and ease," DeCamillis said.