Intel's New IoT Sales Chief Talks 'Customer Obsession,' New Hardware

Intel's new IoT sales chief, Brad Haczynski, talks to CRN about the chipmaker's new focus on 'customer obsession,' Intel's drive to help partners scale IoT projects and new 'purpose-built silicon' that will expand Intel's IoT portfolio.

Haczynski Talks 'Customer Obsession,' Teases New IoT Hardware

Brad Haczynski has a big mandate as the new sales chief for Intel's Internet of Things Group: supporting the company's new focus on "customer obsession" to drive growth.

Whereas the 17-year Intel veteran had previously focused on one major customer, Cisco, for nearly five years, across the chipmaker's entire portfolio of products, Haczynkski is now charged with driving sales for Intel's IoT products and solutions across many customers.

"Moving to this role is obviously taking on an entire business across every customer around the globe. So imagine one customer, all products — one business unit, all customers," Haczynkski said in explaining his transition from managing director of Intel's global Cisco account team to Intel's vice president and general manager of IoT global sales.

The Internet of Things Group, also known as IOTG, has been one of Intel's new growth engines as part of its bid to become a "data-centric" company. While IOTG sales took a hit in the most recent quarter due to Intel's ongoing CPU shortage, the business unit has been growing at a fast clip overall, reporting a 9 percent year-over-year increase in revenue to $3.5 billion in 2018.

In a recent interview with CRN at the Intel Partner Connect conference, Haczynkski talked about how the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company is putting a new emphasis on customer obsession, how Intel's IoT portfolio will eventually expand to include "purpose-built silicon," what kinds of IoT applications Intel is enabling and how Intel is driving scale with partners.

"One of the things we want to do is we want to make sure that our customer's voice is heard, so we're putting a lot of emphasis on: we want to get out there. We want to talk to customers. We want to make sure that the feedback is, 'hey, the strategy's working. The roadmap is where we need to go in order to grow,'" Haczynkski said.

What follows is a transcript of the interview that has been edited for clarity.

So what's your purview right now?

Well, I think the nature of any sales job at a very base level is somewhat tactical. Job 101 for any sales leader is, "hey, here's the revenue targets. We want you to go off and we want you to hit the target." We talked a lot about: Michelle Johnston [Holthaus] (pictured), my boss, is pivoting the company to a theme of "customer obsession." One of the things we want to do is we want to make sure that our customer's voice is heard, so we're putting a lot of emphasis on: we want to get out there. We want to talk to customers. We want to make sure that the feedback is, "hey, the strategy's working. The roadmap is where we need to go in order to grow."

So there's some tactical components to it, and there's some strategic components to it. But for me, it's really about our team bringing that customer voice back to the table. And it's an exciting place to be. I mean, if you think about IoT, if you think about the growth opportunity we have in IoT, Intel is a leader in IoT. We want to be a stronger leader in IoT. It's a very different business than our PC and data center businesses, where we have a very strong position. And so there's a lot of opportunity in front of us with IoT.

Can you talk a little bit more about this focus on customer obsession? What's the difference between now and then?

Well, I think in the past, as Intel strengthened its position in the marketplace, there are times we had — we have great products. We have great technology. There are times we had been given feedback from our customers that we don't always listen the best [to] some of the recommendations they may have or when they give us feedback on the roadmap or execution, etc. Michelle really believes in [CEO Bob Swan, who] ultimately really believes that the path to the future of growing this company to a hundred billion dollars in revenue and really going after that $300 billion [total addressable market] is about, we have to take on new customers and new markets. That starts by sitting down at the table and listening. And Michelle Johnston uses this term. She says, "I want everybody to be a mouse," which is, you have two really big ears and a small mouth. And that really starts [with] a culture shift for Intel, which is sitting down and saying, "what do we want to achieve with our customers? What do they expect of us? And how do they expect us to be not only the best technology provider, but the best partner for them to capture value in the market with our products?"

How long has this been a new focus? I know that Bob Swan made "customer obsession" one of his big points in his letter to employees when he was appointed as CEO.

I personally believe the change started to happen significantly when Michelle got the job, and Michelle got the job in August of 2017, running [the] sales and marketing group. She started to create the swell of the culture change in the fact that we need to do a better job of being perceived as better partners with our customers. But I do believe that Bob, when he took over as the interim CEO [in June 2018], he did start to amplify that message that Michelle had been starting to build. So yeah, I think Bob has a lot to do with it.

What products fall under the IOTG portfolio? I know you have Quark and Atom processors, and Core processors as well, but what other solutions are you selling?

A lot of the products on the portfolio today are what we call "adopt and modify." So you mentioned Atom, you mentioned Core. There is actually Xeon as well. And so if you look at those as the base compute products, a lot of times what we do is, there will be some level of adopting it from the system business unit in the case of a client product. But typically for IoT applications, like other embedded-type applications, there's a longer life cycle required. So a lot of times what you'll have is you will adopt a specific SKU for, say, [Client Computing Group], and you'll then modify it to have a longer life cycle, so that it can support say a seven-year or potentially 15-year lifespan. That is really required for IoT applications.

There is also a host of technologies in-house and accelerators. We acquired Movidius a few years ago, and the Movidius [visual processor unit] products are now in-house as part of IOTG as an accelerator for vision inference. So you [combine] a Movidius VPU with an Intel CPU. We talk about OpenVINO as the framework for vision inference. That's a big part of the strategy right now. And so we have things like the Neural Compute Stick, which is basically a Movidius chip on a stick for the developer ecosystem to be able to develop and work on OpenVINO. And we have other accelerated products that we bring in from the partner organizations. If you think about the [Programmable Solutions Group] products, such as the FPGAs — again, another accelerator. So all of this is really encompassing IoT products.

Now moving forward, part of Tom [Lantzsch's] strategy is to build purpose-built silicon. While I can't talk about products we haven't launched, they are products that they're working on that are IoT-specific products. So having certain features and capabilities that are more IoT-specific, built from the ground up for IoT applications versus just adopting and modifying from other business units.

With the "adopt and modify" approach, are you leaning into partners to do stuff like that, like system integrators and other kinds of partners? Or does Intel take care of it?

We typically do that. So what happens is now, of course, if you go back to the customer obsession and feedback, we do a lot of things. We have our big OEM partners and then here at the [Intel Partner Connect] event, where we get to meet with [Intel's] board of advisors and have the network of Intel partners. A lot of times that feedback [goes back to] the roadmap about the types of SKUs we need and, "hey, you're missing this particular SKU, or "you're missing this particular part of the performance roadmap." So we definitely take that input, but the decision is ultimately made by the business unit.

What are the kinds of channel partners that work with IOTG?

We have a bunch of programs, and of course this week, the big theme is how we're launching a new program, the Intel Partner Alliance. But if you think about the program in its current state, we have several. One is the IoT Solutions Alliance. Another one is the IoT Solutions Aggregator Program. So we those are good examples of programs where you bring in fellow travelers along with you to really drive IoT into the marketplace and create that scale. Because IoT is really about creating scale , driving [DM1] things like the [IoT] Market Ready Solutions, etc.

Have you had a chance to see what any customers or partners are doing for IoT projects?

I've seen examples, I've heard of examples, but one thing I know that is resonating especially within this partner community is our [IoT] Market Ready Solutions. So if you were here last year, you probably heard us talk about MRS. Well, I know that we [had] a pretty strong goal of Market Ready Solutions deployments for 2018, and we far exceeded that goal.

And what's really interesting about those deployments is the Market Ready Solutions that were deployed, we're seeing 90 percent of them right now have some level of repeatability. Which is exactly where we want to target in the marketplace, because you go, "okay if I have created a solution, and it's working, and it gets deployed and if it can be repeat deployable," then you now know you're onto something. So while we have a wealth of market-ready solutions, not all of them have necessarily been deployed. But the ones that have been deployed, we're seeing that good repeatability.

Can you give some examples of IoT applications that use Intel products?

So retail is a great example. I was at [the National Retail Federation's conference] the second week of the year. A good example would be: imagine a smart vending machine and inside this smart vending machine, you have a camera, and inside housed from there, you have a small computer unit, maybe a Core i5, a Movidius VPU using OpenVINO. So using inference vision imagine you could do a credit card swipe, you open the door, you take a product out and instead of there being sensors on the shelves — you hear things like Amazon Go, they'll use sensors on the shelf — well, this is using computer vision. So what you do is you would take a product out. It could be chips. It could be a drink. The computer vision camera will notice that you took the product out. It will automatically calculate the amount [of money due]. Now if you put the product back, it'll notice you put the product back to as well. And then when you swipe your credit card, you're done, you walk away. So that's just one example of computer vision.

Another great example of what we saw for computer vision in retail was a company that had created a similar [solution] using vision and inference. When you walk into a any store or a supermarket like a Whole Foods, there's actually been [situations] where people have taken, say, peanuts or taken cashews or a very expensive nut, put [them] in a bag, walked up to the machine and then put the code in for [a less expensive nut] to pay less. And so they used a couple examples of using smart vision — again OpenVINO, Movidius VPU. [So when you're] putting a bag of nuts [into the bag], the camera detects what kind of nut it is. It knows it's cashews or macadamia nuts and spits out the label instantaneously. So not only do you have a faster, more reliable retail experience, but you also get a little bit of security built in there as well. So there's a lot of great showcasing of those kinds of [applications] that are specific to edge inference and vision. That's why we're so excited about it, because it will fundamentally change the landscape of how shoppers shop in a retail environment.

To what extent does IOTG work with other business units on things like edge servers?

So it's a great question, edge. If you look at where IoT is currently sitting, think about it as whether you're in an industrial setting or retail center or enterprise setting, these devices and these things [are] all talking to each other. They're aggregated at some point into a gateway of some sort. Then data centers are the data center, whether you're an enterprise and then of course you have cloud, and so there's definitely been this concept of the rise of the edge, which is multi-axis edge computing, which is the fact that the amount of data that's going to be coming out of all these devices. You think about a smart city environment, smart manufacturing. It's not pragmatic for all that data to be aggregated, sent up to the cloud to be analyzed, stored or whatever and then sent back.

So the emergence of these aggregation compute points called edge [are] showing up at the edge of the network. It could be mobile edge computing. It could be industrial edge. [It could be] enterprise edges. There's lots of flavors. We're working in a partnership with the Data Center Group. When IOTG talks about edge, Data Center Group will also talk about edge. There's a strong collaboration between the two groups around the rise of edge computing. And you're seeing OEM partners show up with different flavors. So you have some of the server OEMs showing up with edge servers. So the edge is coming, and we are looking internally as we talk together between the business units. It's a great collaborative approach. We have to be on the same page. I think the most critical aspect is [that] the Data Center Group and IoT Group understand the opportunity the same way. I don't think we get into conversations about really who's doing what — it's really about driving the strategy together into the marketplace.

How do partners engage with Intel when they're working on IoT deployments that involve products from multiple business groups, such as Data Center Group for edge servers?

That's a great question. That's the role of our sales organization. So when we set up the sales organization, what we have is, while I have the IoT business unit sales, my partner Rose Schooler has the Data Center Group business sales. But you also know that in the countries and territories, we have a sales organization. So in the case of U.S. sales, that's Greg Ernst, and so under Greg Ernst, you'll have the [U.S. channel chief] Jason Kimrey.

To me, we need to be one voice to our customers. Our customers shouldn't have to see the inner workings, right? So if you think about this, you say, "okay, how do you have that conversation?" Well, it's about educating our sellers to make sure that they understand the needs and the requests of the customer and filtering through that one voice, whether it's the account executive or the account manager or whatever. While things like edge are still very nascent, it's not really defined. As a matter of fact, yesterday in the [board of advisors] conversation, one of the partners mentioned NUC devices as edge applications, which is clearly a [Client Computing Group] product. But if you think about the NUC, it's small form factor, It's got good compute power and capabilities to it. And it has I/O.

So I think it's going to take time, but we're going to have to listen to see, because some of the partners that are in the room and the partners that are here this this week, they're the ones. The big OEMs are going to do their thing, but it's these partner ecosystems that are very close to sort of the maybe the small and medium enterprise customers who are thinking about, "how do I take advantage of you know, what's my cloud solution going to be? what's my edge solution going to be? Help me, Mr. Partner, figure that out." And so I think it's a journey that we're all going to have to go on together.

Are there any specific initiatives IOTG is focused on this year?

First and foremost is we have a we have a growth target and, it's pretty clear at a corporate level about the growth expectations for the company. So it's really about getting our sales folks excited for that. But I think partner deployments is a big one. We talked a lot about if you think about what we're doing here this week at the conference. It's, "how do we bring more [IoT] Market Ready Solutions online? How do we make the Market Ready Solutions program more effective for our partners? How do we drive growth out of that?"

So that's really the theme behind it, because if you think about IoT in general, it's really about a scaling mechanism. We have over a thousand customers for IoT, and in every customer in the world, no matter what vertical you assign a customer, everyone has an IoT challenge. Everyone has a business challenge they're working through [with] an outcome that can be enabled via technology. So for us, for me, when it came to our sales kickoff, it was really about, we have a great opportunity in front of us.

Intel continues to establish its leadership, and we want to continue to be in be perceived as the leader in IoT with the great capabilities we have across all of our silicon portfolio of products, both from a Core CPU to the accelerators to, again, the frameworks and One API type of approaches with OpenVINO, which is resonating with, you the community of developers out there. We have a lot of developer resources as well. I mean one of the other things that you'll hear folks question is Intel's intent with the developer community or things like artificial intelligence, and, you know, Intel has a ton of work in the background that's going on with software, whether its software development kits and we're really working with the developer community to get [them] excited about what Intel's bringing to market.

So just using that example of OpenVINO, I think they had something like 26,0000 unique downloads of that, and it only launched eight, nine months ago. I would say the passion for it, and the response from the industry has been overwhelming. And so that gives us a great opportunity to showcase our position, so that developers feel like they can contribute to the opportunity for things like edge inference for vision. So I think that that sales conversation with our sellers is continuing to keep them excited about where we're going in this space, because it's a growth opportunity for Intel.

What have been your top priorities for the first 90 or so days on the job?

You take on any job, the first thing you have to do is you got to work with the team. So I inherited a world-class organization, took the leadership reins of a world-class organization [led by] a bunch of very senior leaders, many of them who have a lot more domain expertise than I do in this particular part of Intel's business. So you're first and foremost in the listening and learning mode, establishing trust and candor with your team, setting your vision for the organization and expectations. I think those are all the basics of taking over any organization as a new leader. The second piece has been just getting out there and listening in the industry.

A lot of it was internally focused, because we have our sales conferences. We have three different ones and three different geographies. So it was quite a world tour. Tom [Lantzsch] and I got to do a sales kickoff [where] we talked about the 2018 results and what we need the team to achieve in 2019. With events like Intel Partner Connect, it's really for me about being in listening mode. I want to meet with customers. I want to listen to what's working. What's not working. Where would they like to see us go? How would they like to see us be better Partners? Getting back to that customer obsession theme, I think you got to do at least the first six months or so of just really listening and soaking it all in.

What are you most excited about for this year?

I'm really excited about the opportunity. I think I really believe that we have the right strategy. I think we have the right opportunity, and I think the time is right, where a lot of customers out there are looking at IoT as a way to change the fundamental landscape of things. You know, I didn't even talk about health and life sciences, I think about things where you can take IoT and [artificial intelligence] and how it can fundamentally change how people monitor health, how we can get results faster.

We can change the experience for humans ultimately for good. and I'll talk a little bit more tomorrow about how there are significant challenges that humanity is facing right now. Climate change is one example. Food and water quality. Things of that nature that we really believe IoT can help solve in the rise of edge computing and IoT, which can help solve some of these greatest challenges for the greater good of humanity.

I think that really excites me. I mean, that's going to take years to do, but just getting in the chair, being part of the journey when the journey is still very nascent is exciting to me. And it's a great learning and growing opportunity for me personally.