CRN Interview: Intel VP On Channel Executive Reshuffling, Changes To Intel's Partner Conference, And Emphasizing Partner-To-Partner Ties

Intel Changes Coming

Partners should expect more big changes down the road as Intel continues its transformation from a PC-centric company to one focusing on data, cloud and the Internet of Things, said Ricardo Moreno, Intel's vice president of channel sales.

2017 was already a year of change for the channel, but Moreno hopes to continue the transformation in the coming year as the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company tries to connect partners, educate them around new areas of expertise, and build a stronger focus on the company's ecosystem.

But one thing will stay the same in 2018, said Moreno – Intel's deep focus on the channel. Following are excerpts from CRN's conversation with Moreno about his vision for Intel's partner program.

What are your channel goals for 2018?

The big driver here is the big multiyear transformation Intel is going through as the company moves from PC-centric to data-centric. We're moving toward solutions, focusing on data, and leveraging that data to bring together smart connected devices and make it meaningful for customers.

What's important for us, as we expand this role, is the role of the partners – the channel is becoming more critical for us. We've always been a channel-focused company and as we expand, we need partners more than ever before. As a channel guy, that has me excited.

Given this company transformation from focusing on PCs to data, how will you adjust your channel strategy moving forward?

We're adjusting our partner strategy to make sure we can support business transformation – but also recognizing the partners bringing that to us. Our key channel goal in 2018 is a stronger focus on our ecosystem. We always worked to connect with our partners, but now we want more partner-to-partner connection, instead of just Intel-to-partner relationships.

How will you help partners drive innovation in increasingly popular markets like data center, cloud and IoT?

We want to identify and recognize and reward partners with deep expertise in areas that help us. If you look at the top businesses we focus on today, over the years partners have brought more expertise to these emerging markets. Also you will see us really recognizing and rewarding partners. I've been with the company for 12 months, and the amount of innovation I'm seeing from partners is incredible.

We've seen a number of executive changes in the channel – most recently, Intel vice president of sales and marketing and general manager Maurits Tichelman moved to a new leadership position outside the company's channel business. What can partners make of these changes?

That's pretty natural to see executive changes like these in a company. Maurits [Tichelman] and CJ [Bruno] were big channel advocates, and will continue to be channel advocates from their new positions. Another key change is Michelle [Johnston Holthaus] coming in as the head of the [sales and marketing] organization. She's had a long history with the channel and now she's in the perfect place to support partners.

What can partners expect from this year's Intel partner conference?

For this year's partner event, we're dropping the name Intel Solutions Summit, and will instead call it Intel Partner Connect to better reflect different partner types and roles.

While in the past, our keynotes have focused on the segments of Intel's business, Intel's view of the industry, and Intel's view of our partners, this year we want to also recognize and highlight the importance of partners going deep in on their relationships with other partners.

What were some of the highlights in 2017 for Intel and its channel partners?

We're big believers in educating our partners. In 2017, we delivered over 1 million training sessions to partners. In 2017 we introduced a couple of vertical market specialties, and we're seeing a good level of success for partners in those specialties – including HPC [high-performance computing] and the cloud businesses. We're promoting a deeper expertise, and we're seeing that where partners are connecting is where the success is happening.

What's your final message for Intel's channel partners?

I think really the biggest message is that we're going through a transformation, and the share that partners are bringing to the table is increasing. Looking forward, we'll be able to see first-hand how we're working with the channel around these roles.