The 25 Most Influential Executives Of 2020
These 25 CEOs offered solution providers much-needed partnership at a time when the channel needed it most.
Stepping Up To Help Partners
Never has leadership mattered more than now. With the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest wreaking havoc on the global economy, this year’s class of Most Influential executives rose to the occasion time and time again—from providing financial relief to partners to making big bold technology bets aimed at driving an economic recovery to making charitable contributions and speaking out on social issues.
With the coronavirus driving a massive shift to work-from-home, solution providers and vendor partners teamed up to meet the initial sudden surge for work-from-home technology purchases. Then channel partners—backed up by this year’s class of Most Influential executives—went into overdrive helping partners build digital transformation solutions for the new normal.
HPE President and CEO Antonio Neri committed $2 billion in financing for an HPE Financial Services payment relief program and increased liquidity for HPE partners with extended payment terms for HPE distributors. At the same time, Neri doubled down on his bold Everything-as-a-Service bet with a strategy aimed at moving HPE and its partners faster into the future with an unmatched consumption-based cloud experience for customers from the edge to the core to the cloud.
Dell Chairman and CEO Michael Dell stepped up with a whopping $9 billion in financing along with zero-percent interest rates for Dell Technologies server, storage and networking offerings with no up-front payment required. The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, meanwhile, donated $100 million to help small businesses and others combat the global coronavirus pandemic as well as find treatments for COVID-19.
Cisco Systems’ popular Webex collaboration offering became a vital tool for companies moving to a work-from-home model, more than tripling in global volume in the wake of the pandemic. Cisco Chairman and CEO Chuck Robbins, meanwhile, continued to drive Cisco’s software and subscription sales to new heights, while at the same time continuing to act as an advocate on pressing social issues.
Those CEOs—along with the rest of our Most Influential executives—offered solution providers much-needed partnership at a time when the channel needed it most. Here, then, are our 25 Most Influential Executives of 2020, in what has been an unprecedented time for partners and customers around the world.
25. Nikesh Arora
Palo Alto Networks
Arora has charted a course of aggressive growth for the world’s largest pure-play cybersecurity vendor with eight acquisitions over his first two years as CEO. Arora’s pursuit of best-of-breed startups like Demisto, CloudGenix and Twistlock has allowed Palo Alto Networks to establish a leadership stance in newer areas like SD-WAN, container security and Security Orchestration, Automation and Response.
24. Mike Long
Chairman, President, CEO
The longtime leader of enterprise solutions distributor Arrow has emphasized during this turbulent year that doing good is good for business. In April, Long said Arrow joined the U.K. effort to manufacture 19,000 ventilators and that it is focused on its services business to deliver the sticky relationship with partners that Arrow will need for the long term.
23. Dennis Polk
Polk knows the IT distribution business is changing, and he‘s looking to keep Synnex growing by spinning out Concentrix, the services business it acquired in 2006. The move will let both parts better concentrate their resources and improve their competitiveness.
22. George Kurian
Kurian took NetApp from a struggling disk storage vendor into becoming one of the leading proponents of the cloud. NetApp under Kurian has shown the world how to seamlessly tie on-premises and cloud-based data, a move that some of its competitors are still trying to figure out.
21. Dan and Michael Schwab
D&H Distributing’s SMB dynamic duo delivered the goods for partners grappling with the COVID-19 crisis. Not surprising given their stellar track record and the company’s 102-year-old family history. D&H provided $50 million in credit and 60-day terms to power partners through the crisis. But the employee-owned company’s biggest advantage came from its co-owner team members who kept D&H’s distribution engine humming with robust support and services, going above and beyond to deliver a seamless, best-in-class experience for partners during the pandemic.
If that wasn’t enough, the company stepped up its cloud services game, adding Cisco to its cloud marketplace with Webex, Umbrella and Stealthwatch. The co-presidents continue to look ahead to the next 100 years, carving out a profitable path for partners and D&H team members.
20. Alain Monié
The CEO has spent 2020 drilling into the company’s cloud, commerce and life-cycle businesses. The distributor has focused on helping partners build their business with artificial intelligence-powered marketing tools and innovative financing options that pay a customer’s contract total value up front so partners don’t need to wait to collect cash over months or years.
19. Charles Giancarlo
Giancarlo more than anyone has made it clear: All-flash tied to the cloud is the future of storage. Pure Storage remains the only top five storage vendor with an all-flash strategy, and he has pushed the company to embrace the cloud as a key part of that strategy.
18. Kris Hagerman
Hagerman secured Sophos’ financial future by engineering the publicly traded firm’s sale to Thoma Bravo for $3.9 billion, providing the vendor with the deep pockets needed to keep pursuing acquisition opportunities in emerging technologies. Hagerman also attacked the mobile security market with an offering that protects Chrome OS users against unsuitable and malicious web content.
17. Ken Xie
Founder, Chairman, CEO
Xie continues to forge a path of profitable growth as the platform security vendor extends its footprint well beyond the firewall to cement a leadership position in SD-WAN. Xie has also invested in Fortinet’s core technology, upgrading the vendor’s network processor for the first time since 2012 to deliver a new firewall that’s 14 times faster than similarly priced products from competitors.
16. Dheeraj Pandey
Founder, Chairman, CEO
With Pandey leading the charge, the innovation engine at Nutanix is in high gear, regardless of any hurdles put in its way. The industry influencer has reshaped Nutanix from a hyperconverged infrastructure pioneer into a hybrid cloud software and subscription superstar.
15. Bill McDermott
In his first year as CEO of ServiceNow, McDermott has had no trouble convincing customers and the company that he is the right person for the job. His bold statements, clear vision for the future and ambitious plans have fired up employees and investors alike.
14. Marc Benioff
Founder, Chairman, CEO
Salesforce’s founder, executive chairman and once-again solo CEO is one of the few people alive who can single-handedly shift the ethos of the corporate world, though he’s been busy of late overseeing his company’s transition to a “new normal” and helping customers do the same.
13. Eric Yuan
Zoom Video Communications
One of the most visible tech CEOs this year, Yuan is heads-down-focused on scaling and securing his highly sought-after video platform, which has seen off-the-charts demand globally since the start of the year. Under his leadership, Zoom Phone was rolled out to complement the popular videoconferencing service.
12. Yang Yuanqing
Yang has kept Lenovo atop the global PC market, buoyed in part by an expanded push in North America, while continuing to drive the company‘s efforts as a challenger in the data center market—in both cases with a strong emphasis on working with solution providers.
11. Jensen Huang
Founder, President, CEO
While it‘s still early innings for Nvidia’s ascendance in the data center, Huang has continued to push the envelope for the future of compute with a new game-changing GPU for artificial intelligence and the acquisition of the world’s leading interconnect provider, Mellanox Technologies.
10. Enrique Lores
In less than a year as CEO, Lores has reorganized the company to improve efficiency, managed through unprecedented manufacturing challenges and fended off a hostile takeover bid by rival Xerox—all while keeping the focus on innovation and growth opportunities across print, personal systems and 3-D printing.
9. Bob Swan
In the face of a highly competitive environment, Swan has acted quickly to expand the chipmaker‘s compute prowess with new investments in artificial intelligence, big data and connectivity while also making strategic divestitures, supply improvements and a return to quicker transitions for future architectures.
8. Satya Nadella
Nadella has accelerated the cloud momentum at Microsoft with the company continuing to see stunning growth under his watch in the Azure and Office 365 platforms even while capturing massive new opportunities, such as with the Teams collaboration app and Windows Virtual Desktop service.
7. Rich Hume
Hume—a 30-plus-year industry veteran—has emerged as the visionary voice for how distribution propels partners forward in a post-COVID-19 world. With deep expertise in all segments of the channel ecosystem, Hume has architected a next-generation plan for how partners will succeed in the future with a robust Tech Data portfolio of 21st century digital tools.
Fueling Hume’s vision is a $750 million investment aimed at digital initiatives around cloud, core business capabilities and better data and analytics. One of Hume’s biggest bets: Tech Data’s StreamOne platform for delivering cloud including Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service.
Hume sees StreamOne as a Tech Data game-changer as partners move to deliver a full portfolio of next-generation cloud services in a post-COVID-19 world.
6. Thomas Kurian
The Oracle veteran re-energized Google Cloud as a serious, emerging cloud computing threat driven by an open-source, hybrid and multi-cloud strategy, with an emphasis on industry-specific, vertical solutions targeting six markets: financial services, health care, manufacturing and industrial, the public sector, retail, and media, telecommunications and entertainment.
5. Chuck Robbins
Faced with global economic uncertainty, Robbins, a reliable and steady force, has been driving Cisco‘s software and services focus faster than ever before to help customers in need. Robbins has also been very vocal on social justice issues this year, pledging $5 million to various charities.
4. Pat Gelsinger
Gelsinger is aggressively attacking the security, container and hybrid cloud market by going on a massive acquisition spree. Since 2019, VMware has purchased 13 companies in a move to make the company the world’s leading hybrid cloud software powerhouse.
3. Andy Jassy
Amazon Web Services
With a keen eye focused on customers and constant and rapid innovation, Jassy has grown AWS into the largest cloud service provider with a $40 billion-plus revenue run rate and vibrant partner ecosystem.
2. Michael Dell
The IT legend is striving to win more market share in storage, server and hyperconverged infrastructure with Dell’s new Power-brand portfolio, while at the same time doubling down on emerging opportunities around Kubernetes, edge computing and the Dell Technologies Cloud.
1. Antonio Neri
Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Hewlett Packard Enterprise President and CEO Antonio Neri provided a lesson in how to lead during a crisis, stepping up time and time again for partners, customers and employees.
Call it meeting the moment. At a time when leadership mattered most, Neri rose above this year’s class of Most Influential executives, providing a calm and steady hand, an open heart and an unflinching commitment to partners.
That unwavering commitment to the channel resulted in $2 billion in financing for an HPE Financial Services payment relief program and increased liquidity for HPE partners with extended payment terms for HPE distributors. But it was more than the financial commitment that set Neri apart: It was his personal commitment to partners, customers and employees.
Just as importantly, Neri provided a compelling vison for the future for partners, doubling down on his big bold bet to deliver the full HPE portfolio in an as-a-service model by 2022 with an unmatched consumption-based cloud experience for customers from the edge to the core to the cloud.
As the leader of the World Economic Forum CEO Champions Group on Accelerating Digital Transformation in a Post-COVID-19 world, Neri—who himself was diagnosed with the disease in June—said he sees the pandemic as an opportunity to create a brighter future as part of a shift from the information era to a new age of insight. That new era, Neri said, will be defined by insight and discoveries that “elevate the well-being of every human on this planet, by becoming digital-first, ensuring equality for all, and embracing partnership.”
Everyone deserves to live freely and with equal access to digital services, said Neri. “We have to do better as a society and as leaders. Together, we can make a difference and be a force for good.”