Coordinating the sales efforts of a business can be a difficult proposition. But managing two that are as disparate in nature as Juniper and NetScreen brings an even greater challenge.
Fortunately for Juniper, its new channel director, Brian Allsopp, enjoys a challenge. And with 17 years in the IT industry he couldn't think of any place he'd rather be than in the channel.
While only in the role since September, the former Linksys regional manager has already launched Juniper's J-Partner Program and overseen the addition of Tech Pacific to its distribution line-up.
He now hopes to steer the Juniper and NetScreen channels toward market leading positions in the ISP networking and enterprise security spaces respectively.
Why did you take this role?
Brian Allsopp (BA): Juniper has a really strong channel heritage and a very successful channel model in the service provider core infrastructure business. The NetScreen acquisition around June last year has really been the first stake in the ground for the enterprise business, so it is an exciting opportunity from my point of view.
Three months in a role isn't long, but do you feel you have achieved much?
BA: It's a lifetime in the channel (laughs). The first thing was to take some time and really understand the business. We rebalanced our distribution model and added Tech Pacific and launched the J-Partner Program. We've been strengthening our messaging on the return on investment in becoming a partner with Juniper too.
Has the new partner program brought the Juniper and NetScreen streams together?
BA: They are radically different partners selling into radically different markets with very different requirements so there is no overlap whatsoever. To deal with that, the new Juniper J-Partner program is really a combination program that caters to the two areas of the market.
How far do you feel you've come with the J-Partner Program?
BA: Fundamentally, we are looking for a really different type of reseller in the market place - someone who has a true value-add business, who goes out and specifies solutions to customers, then installs and supports them. It will take us a while to find all those partners, but it is something we are committed to.
What was the rationale for bringing on Tech Pacific?
BA: We signed a global deal with Ingram Micro and an APAC deal with Tech Pacific. Australia was the first country to come on out of that. In effect, the deal was part of our global strategy to strengthen distribution with several major distributors.
Those companies are fairly broad-based. Are routers no longer a niche product?
BA: The beauty of our distribution model now is that we have one volume player and one value player in ChannelWorx. We have two very different styles of distributor which can cater to the different needs of the channel.
Are there particular numbers you are seeking under the J-Partner Program?
BA: There is no hard and fast number, but one metric which we are conscious of is not gaining too many resellers. What we see today is that the standard model for networking vendors is one which is very over-distributed. We want to be very cautious and confine our partner program to an under distribution bias so there is value left in the sale and there are not five or six resellers fighting over the same opportunity.
Why do vendors over-distribute as much as they do?
BA: The number one issue which resellers convey to us is in the networking business is that they are not making any margin out of the product - it's all about the services. We take a different view that there should be margin in the product as well as the services.
The majority of your working life has been spent in the channel. Why?
BA: I love the channel. The thing about it is that it is lively and always changing. There are a number of companies at the vendor level jockeying for position and I think that creates a lively environment.
In my 17 years in the channel I have seen it come in and out of favour with vendors. For a period there in the boom time it was very much a direct sales approach and the channel was just fulfilling demand for that.
However I've seen a big swing back to the channel in the last two years as vendors have tightened their budgets. They are looking to do more with less. It is positive that it is coming back into focus.
Does that place pressure on you as the channel manager?
BA: The channel is more than the channel manager. I think the manager executes a strategy and works internally with the company. The channel is a culture within a company that is driven from top down. Without that commitment to channels as a model you will not get through all the issues internally and with partners to make the relationship successful.