Juniper's Gordon Mackintosh: 'The Time Is Now' To Go After The Enterprise

Juniper’s new channel chief, Gordon Mackintosh, discusses the company’s enterprise pivot, opportunities around Mist offerings, and his vision for the Juniper channel.

A New Leaf

Juniper Networks does about 80 percent of its business through the channel with about 3,400 active partners scattered around the globe. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based vendor has historically targeted service provider customers but is now actively going after the enterprise with the help of its channel.

Gordon Mackintosh, former channel chief for Extreme Networks, took the top channel management position at Juniper in January as worldwide vice president of channel and virtual sales. Since then, Mackintosh has been revamping Juniper’s channel organization and working with partners to push solution-selling to enterprise customers.

To that end, Mackintosh and the Juniper channel team have built a soon-to-be-introduced partner program, Enterprise+, geared toward boosting enterprise revenue. The program will exist alongside Juniper’s flagship Juniper Partner Advantage program and its new program focused on MSPs, the J-Partner Managed Services Program.

Mackintosh caught up with CRN to talk about Juniper’s pivot to the enterprise, what partners need to know about the Enterprise+ program that will be formally launched in March, and his vision for the Juniper channel.

What follows are excerpts from the conversation.

Is Juniper shifting its focus away from the service provider space to focus on the enterprise?

Service provider is still about 40 percent of our business and is a highly strategic [business segment] to us, but there is some transition that is happening in that space that we see tremendous opportunity in, but we also see tremendous opportunity in the enterprise.

I believe the time is now for Juniper in the enterprise based on the Mist acquisition. I spent a lot of time reconfiguring our partner segmentation and internal compensation models so that the entire channel team is focused on growth and aligned to drive that growth with partners that are putting their hand up to go on this journey with us.

Juniper at its Partner Summit in November said it's not a solutions company yet. How will the channel be critical in helping Juniper reach that goal?

The channel will be very critical. For me, having met with many partners now and understanding the technology we have, it's about investing in and winning partnerships and working with the right partners to deliver value to the customers. Many of those partners are looking to focus resources on the enterprise space and so are we. We want to deliver collaborative selling with a lot of investment to build the right kind of partnerships with a subset of our partner community.

We are launching a new program at the beginning of March called Enterprise +. It's focused on 100 partners globally and will be very exclusive. We are looking to drive $50 million of growth in the enterprise over the next 18 months and we are investing about $25 million into that. [Enterprise+] is built on feedback that we have received from partners on what is needed to really capture the inflection that is happening in the networking space.

Will Enterprise+ take the place of Juniper's existing channel program, Juniper Partner Advantage?

It's a separate program that will sit alongside our existing partner program framework. What we are trying to build out is collaborative selling alignment between our [internal] sellers and partners to go after the enterprise space with growth expectations. To help them to do that, we are going to invest heavily in them and give them the things they have been asking for, such as enablement and support.

We have spent a lot of time and money around what I have called 'the next-generation virtual sales organization.' We have about 40,000 customers that have bought a little from Juniper but not a lot, [and] we are going to target [those customers] with digital marketing and sales development reps to develop sales opportunities and then start co-selling with partners. Many vendors give leads to partners and you get mixed feedback on those leads. I think this really collaborative selling is going to support [partners] throughout the sales cycle and bring them more opportunities—that is going to be at the low end of the enterprise space.

In the main enterprise space, partners in the Enterprise+ program will be identified as the go-to partners that our sales organization should work with. [There will be] a lot of alignment around selling, demand creation, and working together to grow the business.

How has the structure of Juniper's channel team changed under your leadership?

We've aligned all of the regional sales leaders like Christian Goffi [Americas head of channels and distribution] into the global organization. Helda Lopes, [head of global partner programs and marketing, pictured], who leads the partner program, is part of my new organization.

Importantly, we also have the global virtual sales organization. I know this is the secret ingredient that Juniper has been looking for. Building this program to drive collaboration between the partners and the virtual sales organization and have complete alignment to drive growth is where we are heading. Partners struggle with the demand creation side. More business are moving to recurring revenue and software and SaaS [Software-as-a-Service] models, so virtual sales becomes really important. It's very difficult and expensive for customers to invest in and we have it now at scale, now through the Enterprise+ program, and we are aligning that with the partners. The two going hand-in-hand will drive a tremendous amount of upside.

Is Juniper going after new kinds of partners, like MSPs?

I'm seeing a strong appetite from those partners, as well as existing Juniper partners possibly playing in the service provider space and wanting to move into the enterprise market that have a desire to build out a new, or expand an MSP practice to drive recurring revenue. We're seeing a lot of excitement within our existing base and we are also seeing with the Mist acquisition new partners attracted to that technology and building managed services practices around that as well.

How big of an opportunity are Mist solutions for the channel?

It's a tremendous opportunity and our partners are really excited about it. I think this is going to accelerate change in the industry faster than any other inflection point in networking in the last several decades. The move to AI-driven enterprise and machine learning is going to massively reduce complexity for customers and is going to help partners deliver outcomes more easily for their customers. Then they can leverage it in an MSP sales fashion to drive recurring revenue and add a whole bunch of new services. I believe this is the beginning of something really big.

What are your goals for Juniper's channel growth?

First, it was important to get to know the teams. I spent a lot of time talking to the direct and indirect teams and getting a feel for the business. I've been putting together a strategy and plan to try to grow as a company through our partners.

The first goal I have is relentless focus on growth. We have aligned resources and want partners growing faster than ever before as we transform the partner ecosystem and their journey to recurring revenue. There's also a new MSP program [the J-Partner Managed Services Program] I'd like to see go mainstream because a partner's valuation goes up 10-fold the more recurring revenue they sell. Channel velocity is important. We have a new deal registration [process] and partner-facing tools to drive channel efficiency and growth.