Channel Chief Roundtable: What Keeps You Up At Night?

Challenges And Fears

What keeps you up at night? We asked that question to five of the top channel executives: Chris Frey of Lenovo, Frank Rauch of VMware, Scott Dunsire of HP, Edison Peres of Cisco, and Frank Vitagliano of Dell. The channel chiefs weighed in on a number of topics from PC sales and partner training to helping solution providers transform their businesses. Here are excerpts from CRN's recent Channel Chief Roundtable.

Improving Partner Support

Chris Frey, vice president of North American channels and SMB at Lenovo

Two things. First, we've had a pretty good run at Lenovo, and at this point it's making sure that we remain humble and that we focus on continued growth and not rest on our laurels. ... We have to earn the right with the channel every single day and be a trusted manufacturer. The other thing that worries me is being able to help and educate these partners on the new world of devices that we are particularly focused on and making sure that they understand the usage models and the services opportunities that come with BYOD. Are we training them so that they can talk to customers about it? Because air cover is not going to get it done. Marketing budgets isn't going to get it done. It's got to happen on the street. So we're spending our time there, and we're going to be in front of partners, and we're going to teach and train and make calls and be part of the sales promotion, and making that happen is one of the things that I spend all my time thinking about.

Moving Quicker

Frank Rauch, vice president of VMware's Americas Partner Organization

What I'm really thinking about is are we moving fast enough, is the channel moving fast enough? We have a tremendous opportunity in front of us over the next three years, and we have a great install base to be able to mine and be a benefit, absolute tremendous environment to be able to value capture, but it's not going to last forever. We have a stewardship to be able to move the channel along, whether you use the word enablement or whether you use the words "helping them to build their businesses." Are we able to do it? Are we able to unify them? Are we able to rally them quick enough around what we need to get done?

Shifting Markets

Scott Dunsire, vice president and general manager of HP's Printing and Personal Systems Group and Americas Channels

For me it's a couple of things. First, it's growth. The PC and printer categories are not the fastest growing segments in the industry. Although there are opportunities, it is not the fastest growing. There are other things that partners are investing in like cloud offerings and converge infrastructure, and what worries me is that partners decide to invest their time and dollars in things outside of the PC and printer category. We need to make sure that we are involved in the selling motion. For me, it's really about field engagement. I will tell you there is one thing that has been resonating throughout the entire HP sales organization and that is [HP CEO Meg Whitman's] commitment to the channel. To have that executive leadership is something that helps me sleep a little better at night. But it's still, for a sales force as large as Hewlett-Packard's, a constant thorn in the side, and my only hope is that partners see the changes and make sure that they see the loyalty that HP has to the partners.

New Consumption Models

Edison Peres, Cisco's senior vice president of worldwide channels

For me, it's partners transitioning their business models to these new consumption models, being able to develop their offerings to where they can balance the applications, the solutions, the managed services, and the cloud. A lot of these partners, many of them are going to do it great because they are good businessmen and they understand it. They have the economic capital to be able to do it. Many of them are not necessarily business people -- they're technologists. And we need to make sure that we help them along that journey. But, I worry about that because if they can't make it, then we have to help them transition somewhere else in the industry. I do want all partners to make it because there is a lot of opportunity here. So that transitioning and really ensuring that they are looking at their business models, for me, is a very, very important priority.

Business Transformation

Frank Vitagliano, vice president of channel sales at Dell

I wouldn't necessarily categorize it as keeping me up at night, but I'm in a little different space now and I joined a company that is going through a major transformation, ... transforming from a low-margin, hardware-oriented sort of company to one that wants to be an end-to-end provider of IT solutions. And there's been a lot of activity on that front for the last five years with the purchasing and integration of a lot of businesses that will help us get there. But with that said, there is a big transformation that needs to take place, and it's a transformation in terms of how we view ourselves as a full IT company and also how we transform to expanding our routes to market. So when I look at our entry into the channel, there's been great progress over the last five years, but we continue to work at that and we've got more to do. I talk to partners and talk about what we've done well and what we need to do better. And I think there's a lot of opportunity for us to continue to improve in areas of integration and sales engagement, and to me I view that as the most important thing I'm thinking about.