CRN Interview: New Verizon Channel Chief Chuisano On IoT, SD-WAN Opportunities And Helping Partners Seal Deals

Changing Tides

Joe Chuisano may be new to the position of channel chief, but he's no stranger to channel partners.

A Verizon veteran of more than two decades, Chuisano has been managing a large portion of the carrier's channel portfolio for years. Chuisano was named director of Verizon Business Markets, North America in July, and prior to this role, he served alongside former channel chief Janet Schijns as managing director of Verizon Business Markets.

CRN sat down with Chuisano to hear about the evolution of the Verizon partner program, opportunities around the Internet of Things and SD-WAN, and how the Basking Ridge, N.J.-based carrier is helping solution providers seal those deals. Here's what Chuisano had to say.

What have you been focusing on since coming into the channel chief role over the summer?

My first priorities have really been to listen to the partners to learn what's important to them and what we should focus on. Any time you come into a new role, it's good to get out there and listen to the partners, and we've been making changes to the partner program. Ease of commerce is probably at the top of their list, so we are focusing on becoming easier to do business with, [as well as] our product road map and making sure [partners] understand where we are going. The other piece is segment-level support. Some partners play in various places, so as we build our long-term program [we are working on] how we support them differently depending on where they sell. Someone that sells into the enterprise really needs a different level of support than someone selling to small and medium businesses.

What changes have you made to the partner program ba sed on the feedback you're getting from partners?

The early changes have been around [giving partners] a place to go with complex solutions, and the ability to get support -- like technical support -- much quicker. The other piece is as the VPP [Verizon Partner Program] has come together with Verizon Business Markets [VBM], we have brought XO Communications over and we're creating one program that brings together the best of our VPP program, Mass Business program, and the XO partner program under one umbrella. We already started to implement some of those changes and will really be launching that program in 2018. We are going to a true revenue model that’s really focused on new business and then making sure we have that segment-level support, meaning having SMB channel managers, and channel managers that are experts in SLED. The one segment that was loud and clear was enterprise, so creating an enterprise-specific channel sales team who can focus on those needs and that different type of sale.

Where do you see the big selling opportunities for partners?

I think collaboration and UCaaS is a big play right now for partners, and we see more and more adoption every day. SD-WAN is clearly a big conversation for folks today, too. The third opportunity I would say is security.

We are seeing the growth in collaboration and UCaaS as very similar to [the growth] we are seeing in SD-WAN. We are seeing a lot of the early sales [of these technologies] coming from the partners, especially in the midmarket space where the partner is the trusted adviser and driving their customers' overall IT direction.

When it comes to new solutions like SD-WAN, what's the advantages for partners in working with an established provider as opposed to a startup?

The advantage is that we have a proven solution. When we launch a solution, it works. We are not new to that space. We built [SD-WAN] into our network and it's network-agnostic, so we have the expertise in delivering that kind of solution. When a partner looks at those complex solutions, you want to work with someone who is leading the way. Seventy-five percent of the world's traffic still travels over Verizon's network. We have our brand and proven track record in delivering these complex solutions.

What kind of growth are you seeing in solution-selling around IoT?

Under VBM, we have our mobility [practice] and the growth we have seen is tremendous -- it's our fastest-growing segment in the channel. Mobility for us is really focused on the IoT-type solutions, and partners are best positioned to sell those solutions. [Solution providers] have access to our innovation center and they can bring in their customers and partners to learn more about IoT. We do a lot of those briefings -- we are in there every other week with a different partner.

We are launching new products and more and more of these solutions -- like asset tracking and fleet management -- will be sold through the channel. IoT is very complex and they are not necessarily packaged together. Partners play really well in that space because if you think about those solutions, there's a lot of back-end integration and services that go along with them.

Is Verizon trying to attract new kinds of partners?

That's really the conversation we are having with many partners as the MSP becomes more prevalent. We are seeing MSPs bringing multiple products into the solution and pulling them all together. Some of these partners are really interested in doing things like rebilling, so we are working with some our larger partners -- like the master agents -- to really make that shift.

We're not out there actively recruiting new partners, but we are actively working with all our distributors and master agents to bring on and recruit new partners.

What's your message to partners?

I think probably the simplest one is there has never been a better time to be a Verizon partner. When we look at all the things going on around simplifying ease of commerce, product portfolio, program evolution and overall support, we are listening and making changes on what is important to [the partners].

The program we are launching is really built for the partners so we can be successful together. [Solution providers] continue to be an important part of Verizon's strategy, whether you’re a partner with enterprise business or SMB customers, you continue to be the biggest part of our growth from a distribution perspective.