Intel's Garrigues: We Want Double-Digit Channel Growth In 2015

Intel: Pushing The Channel Boundaries

Intel's North America Channel Director ToddGarrigueshas explosive plans for the upcoming year.

Garrigues and other Intel executives want to push double-digit growth in the channel through a slew of new initiatives, such as a renewed drive in vertical markets, new mobile product opportunities and partner solution innovation.

The company is also diving head-first into the Internet of Things, where Garrigues sees big opportunities for solution providers to reinvent themselves.

Garrigues sat down with CRN Assistant Editor Lindsey O'Donnell to discuss Intel's channel strategy and how the company will help fuel channel growth. Following are edited excerpts fromthe conversation, which took place last week during Intel's Solutions Summit in Dallas.

What are your goals for Intel's channel partners in the upcoming year?

Our goal for the channel is double-digit growth this year. We think we have to do this vertical piece in order to get there.

I think the fact that we're taking the vertical and segment focus to the forefront and really trying to put more focus there is a good thing. We'll help our partners differentiate and help enable them; that's always exciting.

Intel launched extended partner Specialty Benefits this week for verticals such as education, retail and Internet of Things. What kind of uptick are you expecting for the channel's presence in vertical markets?

My specific goal from a partner engagement perspective is last year we completed 10,000 vertical-oriented trainings, and I want to double that to 20,000.

If I do that, that tells me I have the right content that's interesting and engaging for them, because they don't take training they don't want to take, so it’s quite a simple equation for us.

If they take it, and they're referring their colleagues to it, then I know we're doing the right thing. So that's my goal from my team's perspective.

Along with the vertical benefits, you also are launching new point benefit opportunities for your registered tier. Can you explain this new program?

One of the other things we're rolling out now is our points program. Our points benefits used to be just for our Gold and Platinum tier. So that was roughly 4,000 customers here in North America and, as of May, we are expanding that now to our registered tier, which means 20,000 new partners are now getting this new benefit. In order to redeem those points, they need to become Gold, but we are extending that benefit to the registered tier, which I think is a pretty big deal.

Do you think you'll get more potential Gold partners due to the new points benefits?

Yes. The goal for this year, we're trying to grow by 10 percent.

Hopefully, [partners] start earning and start seeing the benefit of why they want to engage with Intel, because a lot of those registered partners are OEM resellers, and they're not really sure what the value of engaging is, so we're trying to expand our benefit reach and help customers get more value out of the program.

Internet-of-Things (IoT)-related solutions and applications were a resounding theme at this year's Intel Solutions Summit product showcase event. What kind of interest level and opportunities surrounding IoT are you seeing for partners?

You can see new things that are changing, like the advent of IoT and what that means. I think if you're using simplistic terms, if you are kind of a generalist and you built or resold PCs and PC equipment, and you did break-fix and you service your local clients, that might have been your business. Now, with different versions of IoT, there are these new opportunities.

If we're talking about retail, for example, maybe some of your clients want you to hang digital signage for them. Well if you go hang a sign, it begs the questions, What content will go on that sign? Who will manage that sign? So there's new services opportunities there.

Speaking of the Internet of Things, are you looking to recruit more partners in that area in the coming year?

The global answer is, essentially, yes. And really our reason as we continue to evolve our program and add these specialty tiers is ... it serves customers of ours that either want to learn about these vertical focus areas and get into them -- we want to help enable them, so that's one area that we target.

The second area we target is within our customer base. The reality is we already have customers who are doing this ... We already know who the experts are. So it's helping customers get into these new opportunities in some cases, and in some cases it's helping recognize and further enable customers that are already successful.

Will you focus on partners outside of your program in terms of selling to the Internet of Things and other vertical markets?

In my mind, later this year we'll start spending more time in North America driving that message to customers who are outside our program today, and, yes, recruiting, and making sure they're aware of our story and the benefits or resources we have and if it's interesting and useful for them. That's true of IoT and health care, and some other ones [vertical markets].

So the answer is yes, but our primary focus first is on our existing partners, helping them and enabling them, to get into these opportunities or recognizing the partners already in these opportunities. Those are the first two things, and later this year I'm going to focus more on expanding.

What conversations did you hear this week regarding Windows 10 and Skylake?

There's definitely been a lot of conversation about that. The bottom line is there are a lot of opportunities around PC refresh, and it's a conversation we had with some customers. We have a lot to sell right now, so we don't want to have to wait. On the other hand, we're excited and I'm hearing customers say they're excited for the promise of what this experience will be like with Windows 10 and Skylake. We certainly look forward to those platforms launching, but the other thing that I'm also focused on is that there's some really great, new experiences with fifth-gen, Core and Windows 8.1 out right now, so I also want to stay focused on that.

What were partners most excited to hear about during the Intel Solutions Summit?

There was definitely a lot of excitement around the Internet of Things. The interest level and engagement with managed services and cloud services is also definitely up.

Big data solutions are also very interesting opportunities for businesses of all sorts. It's not just an Amazon or a Google -- there are opportunities for businesses of all sizes, and if that’s true, it becomes a channel opportunity for customers of all types. So that's another one we've been definitely paying attention to and we'll be watching.

We saw a slew of wireless technologies at ISS, including wireless docking and the Intel Pro Wireless Display. What were partners' general reactions to these wireless initiatives?

We're still a little bit early on [wireless charging] UX and other wireless technologies; we're at the cusp of that, but that will be a really exciting transformative experience in the workplace when, all of a sudden, you don't have to worry about your power cord or docking, so I do see a lot of buzz around that.

We've been talking about this to our partner base for a couple of years at this event, and you can feel that conversation maturing now with products and applications that are coming out, so I think that will be exciting in the fall of this year.

There was some excitement around RealSense as well. Are you starting to hear ideas from partners about what they can do with this technology?

We're excited to see what customers do with [RealSense]. One of the challenges with technology is you can come up with something great, but then what happens to it? We are giving away one of the Compute Sticks [Intel's newest mini PC product] to all the attendees here, and we hope to see what they can do with it. We can all get the consumer usage model, but what we can do from a business or commercial standpoint is really interesting.

What areas are you hoping to expand your partner base and/or help the channel with solutions?

We have vibrant customer bases for our client and data centers, so I would say IoT would be the area where we would look to expand the customer base. It’s a great growth opportunity.

In terms of where we can help the channel differentiate, I would say UX and mobility. I'm a big believer in if we help our partners understand and get ready to take those new experiences to their customers, that gives them a way to differentiate. They're adding value to their customers before it's commonplace, and that's one way we can help.

In terms of big data solutions, are there any leading technologies that partners can look to for new opportunities?

With data center, it will be similar [to our efforts with mobility], whether it's technical computing or big data. We're trying to stay on the forefront and make sure we lead with technology. The example there is our nVME [non-volatile memory express, an interface for accessing solid state drives] solution on the solid state drive front, making sure our partners have those technologies so they can go differentiate their solutions to their end users, who have an insatiable demand for better products or faster compute.

What kind of model does the majority of your partners have today?

Today, generally what I usually say is the majority of our customers are hybrids. If they are differentiated enough, they can make money and have a good business by building custom desktops, whether that's small form factor or what have you, but they might also resell tablets or notebooks, because very few can do the custom tablet or notebook business successfully. Although ... we have over 500 new customers doing tablets in the past year using the China Tech Ecosystem (CTE).

How has the services business, in general, been for partners? Have you seen any growth?

What I've seen over the past few years is that the growth of the services business for the reseller community has been a very good thing, and I think that the majority of our customers absolutely have multiple pieces to their business. So 50 percent or more have some cloud service or managed service partner business, [and] 90 percent offer IT services of some sort. So you don’t have people who are just turning screws and building boxes anymore -- they're all doing things to add value.

Do you think partners got everything out of Intel Solutions Summit that you hoped they would?

Yes. I was really happy with the showcase. To me, there was a really good buzz. It just goes back to one of the things we've been talking about, which is that there's a ton of opportunity. And our job, as we see it, is to help customers take advantage of that. So a big piece of ISS is exposing these technologies and these opportunities to our customers. In terms of the attendance, the interactions and the breakouts, they were all fantastic, and it's all going very well.