Nutanix’s New Channel Chief On Investing Where ‘We’ve Fallen Short’
‘Where we’ve fallen short, and part of change is being honest with ourselves, is around doing a better job listening to our partners. Even more importantly, once we get that feedback, what do we do about it?’ says Christian Alvarez, Nutanix’s new channel leader for the Americas.
Nutanix’s New Channel Leader Talks Channel Strategy And Boosting Partner Profitability
Nutanix has a new channel leader in the Americas with the appointment of former Juniper Networks channel chief, Christian Alvarez, who plans on taking the hyper-converged software company’s partner strategy to the next level.
“I’m going to be relentlessly focused on partner simplicity. I’m obsessed with simplicity. There’s certain elements of our partner program that I want to take back to the basics,” said Alvarez, Nutanix’s new vice president, Americas Channel, in an interview with CRN. “I have a very simple philosophy around partner programs – if you can’t describe it easily in four minutes or less, it isn’t the right program.”
Alvarez, who has more than 26 years of executive sales and channel management positions, is now leading Nutanix’s Americas channel team. He was previously Worldwide Head of Channels and Distribution at Juniper Networks where he was responsible for over 14,000 partners and 50 distributors. “Hardware is going to continue to be commoditized and I really want to focus on software,” Alvarez said.
In an interview with CRN, Alvarez talks about why he joined Nutanix, his channel vision, plans to invest more in distribution and improving areas where Nutanix “has fallen short” for partners.
What made you leave Juniper Networks for Nutanix?
Juniper is a great company and they’re doing some really amazing things over there. The real driver why I was so intrigued with the opportunity to become part of Nutanix was, I looked at their ten-year history. The journey that they’ve been on and their ability to pivot toward 100 percent software as a cloud-based company – that intrigued me personally. That’s where my mind and my heart is at right now. I’ve spent the majority of my career in OEM’s on the hardware side, and it’s all about software now. Hardware is going to continue to be commoditized and I really want to focus on software. That was my main reason for leaving and deciding to join Nutanix. By the way, Juniper and Nutanix have a really great partnership, and Nutanix runs great on Juniper.
So what’s your channel strategy to help boost partner sales and profitability?
I want to build on top of the great partner ecosystem that exists today. We have some of the best men and women in our partner organization and we have some of the very best partners in the world to be honest. Where we’ve fallen short, and part of change is being honest with ourselves, is around doing a better job listening to our partners. Even more importantly, once we get that feedback, what do we do about it? So Nutanix is absolutely committed to helping our partners be more profitable in leading with Nutanix and continuing to sell all of our solutions. I’m going to be relentlessly focused on partner simplicity. I’m obsessed with simplicity. There’s certain elements of our partner program that I want to take back to the basics. I have a very simple philosophy around partner programs – if you can’t describe it easily in four minutes or less, it isn’t the right program. I don’t want to over simplify the structure of a partner strategy or programs, but that’s where my mind is at. So simplicity and being able to articulate our partner program in four minutes or less.
Do you plan to completely revamp Nutanix partner program?
I have no interest in revamping the program. It’s all around improving and identifying where there’s friction. It’s around listening to where our partners are potentially struggling and where we can do better. It’s about building on top of the program that we have today and making it better based on the open feedback that we get back from our existing partners.
Partner programs have to mature and they have to keep up with today’s subscription-based economy. I have a relentless focus on partner simplicity. In terms of simplicity, if we can give them more agility, there’s a lot more ability for the partner to be more effective. It will reduce their cost of sales, cost of pre-sales and a quicker go-to-market. Then there’s the pivot [in the channel] toward services. Product margins have eroded. Today, it’s all in professional services and managed services.
When do you plan on implementing these channel changes?
Early next year. I want emphasis that nothing is really broken. I’m really proud of what Nutanix has done so far. It’s about aligning our partner program with how partners are selling today. It’s more about turning nobs and pulling levers.
What’s your message to channel partners around these changes and your vision?
Make no mistake, partners are 100 percent core to our strategy. They are an integral part of our ability to scale and to reach areas in the world where we can’t reach today. We have to leverage partners. We have to continue to enable partners and make our portfolio easy to procure and resell. It’s in our DNA to continue being a partner-centric company. We do close to 100 percent of our business through the channel, two-tier. That’s our primary route to market and we have no intentions on changing that.
What is one big investment area you plan to focus on right away?
Distribution is another area where we’ve fallen a bit short. We need to a have better, more comprehensive distribution strategy. I can see that we’re just starting to scratch the surface in terms of being more visible in this area. The power of distribution is enormous. There’s a big segment, what I call broad channel, which are partners that are managed by distribution. As I look at Nutanix’s portfolio today and where it’s going tomorrow, as our leadership and CEO are also obsessed with simplicity and agility – I’m really excited about the opportunity to position our portfolio in the broad channel to add velocity. Distribution and the power of distribution is something that we’re just starting.
Talk about the market competition and where Nutanix has a leg up against competitors?
When I listen to our employees, our CEO, our leadership and they talk about the innovation path and where we’re going as a company – Nutanix does a really good job at looking way into the future. They also do a great job in listening to customers. Our Net Promotor Score speaks for itself – year over year, it’s the highest in our industry. It’s something that we’re really proud of and it’s not just the fact that we provide world-class customer service, it’s that we listen to our customers. As it relates to competition, I love competition. Competition is healthy. Customers absolutely love to have choices. Our fourth quarter results is another indication that we’re beating the competition in many cases because we have products and solutions that really stands on their own and differentiated. To be honest, we move faster. We are more nimble. We’re innovating at a very rapid rate, again, that is based on what customers want. We have a customer-first mindset. Lastly, we have a world-class sales organization that’s very aligned to working with our customers and giving them the best solutions possible, powered by our partner organization on the field. The opportunity ahead for Nutanix and our partners is vast.