EMC Channel Chief: New Enterprise Appointment Tightens Links Between Indirect, Direct Sales

EMC is tightening the links between its channel and direct sales teams with the recent appointment of Chris Riley as the storage giant's new senior vice president of Americas enterprise sales, said Gregg Ambulos, the company's vice president of global channel sales.

EMC wants Riley, a seasoned sales executive, to tighten alignment between direct sales and the channel to the point where partners and customers can deal with the company seamlessly, Ambulos said in an interview with CRN. "We want it to all be interchangeable," he said, "That's the ultimate goal. The lines are blurring."

Riley has been with EMC since early 2014. He was hired as a vice president, and took his first senior vice president role last February upon the expiration of a noncompete agreement with his former employer, Hewlett-Packard, where he was vice president and general manager Americas for HP Storage. Before he took the HP storage job, Riley spent 21 years in storage sales, including a prior 12-year stint as a regional vice president of EMC from 1987 to 1989.

[Related: Infrastructure CEO Goulden: The Federation Is Driving Stronger EMC Channel Commitment ]

Sponsored post

Riley's appointment is part of a concentrated strategy EMC launched about a year ago to bring direct sales leaders into the channel fold, said Ambulos.

Ambulos said Riley is a perfect fit for the interchangeable sales strategy. His promotion is accompanied by a broader reshuffling that includes EMC veteran Jay Snyder's appointment to Riley's former post as senior vice president of global strategic alliances.

"Chris has been a successful leader on the sales side; he's got a great track record," Ambulos said. "He's also got a great track record of working with the channel. He's an ideal model of a leader we want to bring in."

The personnel moves are important because they signal EMC's readiness to accelerate the evolution of its sales operations, recruitment and channel programs.

"We already have the right program, and great people at EMC today," Ambulos said. "We have to make sure we have the right human capital. When the organizations can be interchangeable, there's more trust and tighter alignment. It makes things I need to get done easier because we're aligned with the direct selling arm at EMC."

The management changes come as EMC moves to put in place its "Federation ready" partner program by July 1, incenting partners to sell the complete EMC Federation of companies (EMC Infrastructure, VMware, RSA, VCE and Pivotal).

The more EMC moves toward a cloud, hybrid, converged, hyper-converged and software-defined strategy through the Federation, the more its channel and direct sales strategies and operations should blend, said Geoff Woollacott, principal analyst at Technology Business Research.

"The more [the market] moves to hybrid, the more those two have to be presented to the end customer as one," Woollacott said. "The end customer gets the experience they want, and it has as much EMC core technology as possible. They have to be encouraging partners, enabling the partners to work that same way."

When customers decide to make a move to the cloud, Woollacott said, Riley and Snyder "have to make sure it's to a cloud that uses their core technology. If they just let it go, it could go to Amazon rather than someone using EMC."

In an interview at the EMC World conference, Scott Millard, EMC vice president Americas channel sales, acknowledged that EMC's sales force was due for a shake-up, telling CRN, "We're evolving from a product sales force to a solutions sales force. We have a lot of legacy EMC sales folks, and we're changing the way they've done things for a long time.

To Arnold Bennett, director of sales for EMC partner Northern Parklife, of Wakefield, Mass., the move also means EMC is finally ready to accelerate its transition from pushing traditional hardware to offering converged, hyper-converged and software-defined solutions. EMC brass, Bennett said, may have decided the company's stable of top sales executives were too old-school and hardware-centric to spearhead an effective digital, solutions-based sales strategy.

John Gentry, vice president of marketing and alliances at San Francisco-based EMC partner Virtual Instruments, praised EMC's decision to promote Riley, as well as the company's apparent willingness to change with the times and truly embrace its partner ecosystem.

"They're definitely showing the market they're interested in evolving," Gentry said. "The focus is not just on the traditional EMC direct enterprise model. From our perspective as a partner, I think that's a very positive sign."

"I wouldn't consider [Riley] an outsider, but it is someone who brings a fresh perspective," Gentry said. "I think they've tried many times to be a different EMC. With these new people on top, it looks like they're actually making that change."

There were between 2,500 and 3,000 EMC partners at the conference earlier this month, and Riley addressed many of them during a keynote, saying EMC's goal is to make its partner program simpler, more predictable and more efficient as partners are encouraged to engage the EMC Federation.

"How can you partner more effectively with the Federation? We can take a leadership role to bring that together," he said.

"Yes, it's about products. Yes, it's about solutions," Riley said. "But it's really about customer outcomes. The market for on-prem is shrinking. That's a big opportunity, and we're going to capture this by working as a team," Riley said, adding that the company has to make sure it's developing the right solutions and putting the right benefits in place for partners.

Norman Henderson, channel director at Santa Clara, Calif.-based QualiSystems, said he's hopeful that EMC's sales messaging to partners can change along with its shift to the Federation strategy, and that's the main task for Riley.

"It's not just hardware and people," Henderson said. "They need to talk about orchestration, and tie the whole thing together."

"It's a complicated beast, EMC," said Kent Christensen, practice director for virtual data center and cloud at Datalink, an Eden Prairie, Minn.-based solution provider and No. 47 on CRN's SP500 list.

"They've really laid it out there, the things they're investing in: open source, software, commodity," Christensen said. "There's a lot of change throughout the organization. We'll see how it works in the field."