Juniper partners chief Chris Jones on VARs: 'Our plan is doing more with fewer'

Juniper partners chief Chris Jones suggests the vendor will treat Juniper-focused partners well, and names domains, verticals for growth.

SearchITChannel recently had the opportunity to catch up with Chris M. Jones, Juniper Networks' vice president of Americas partner sales -- and, as of April 1, the company's new channel chief.

Jones took over the top channel position at the company after seven-year Juniper veteran Frank Vitaglianoleft the company earlier this year for Dell Inc. Jones, who joined Juniper in December 2010, ran the company's worldwide sales team before his most recent appointment. According to Jones, a key part of his role with the sales organization was to help change its culture by forging deeper ties to the channel and building growth in the commercial group by leveraging Juniper partners (which number 2,500 in North America, 250 of which are elite partners).

To that end, Jones noted that while he may be new to the channel chief title and role, he is not new to Juniper's partner community. Here's what Jones has on his agenda as Juniper's partner channel head honcho.

What are your top three goals for this year and what's the plan for meeting those goals?

Chris Jones: I've been on the road a lot meeting with partners and getting their input. In mid-April we had our partner advisory council meeting with 25 of our top partners who are helping us to collaboratively build our partner program.

[Our biggest challenge is to] energize our partner community to … help us get … the opportunity to compete.

Chris M. Jones,
vice president of Americas partner sales, Juniper Networks

What I laid out with this group -- and this is a mantra among our teams -- [are] three key areas: growth, focus and profitability.

From a growth perspective, this means getting more creative with our partners around identifying specific domains, such as the data center, which is a very big growth area for us; identifying verticals that we mutually have traction in or want to build plans around, such as health care or public sector. With some channel partners getting aggressive and more creative in how we structure deals together in working customer opportunities, this is one of our key corporate goals in taking market share.

In terms of focus, our plan is doing more with fewer. This is really about placing further investment with partners who invest with us; taking a look at the overall partner landscape and looking at the partners who are making the investments, getting the certifications, and building practices around Juniper solution offerings and aligning with us around the key domains and the markets we're going after.

The last component is partner profitability. That's a big focus for us not just from a channel team perspective, but aligning that with the sales team to place additional emphasis around partner profitability.

This ties into a couple of key areas that are the table stake aspects of the programmatic elements that we put in place:

One year ago we launched Juniper Partner Advantage (JPA); it's a way to help incent our partners around growth that includes our rebate program to help drive profitability. We also continue to help our partners to invest in key areas of our business and offset costs for those who are making the investments.

Another significant area is services. We're intentionally working with partners to drive their services, and we're working to make sure they never get into a situation where they compete with us on services. In fact, we're looking at taking this a step further by incentivizing our people around driving partner services.

We feel services are a key value proposition for our partners and can help them tighten their customer relationships. We want them to build practices around professional services to help them drive profitability.

To that extent, we just introduced an augmentation of the JPA program with JPA Services. Two key aspects are Partner Support Services and Partner Professional Services.

One more thing that applies to all three areas is something that we rolled out internally called our teaming standard. One of the things partners have told us is that they'd like to see more proactive engagement from field account managers on the sales side, understanding our business and helping us drive it together.

So we laid out a comprehensive plan -- our teaming standard -- that's helping our field team become better partners to our partners; to better understand how our partners make money; and trying to drive more of that collaborative relationship between our field account managers and our partners.

This was announced back at our partner summit in January. There are different modules: why we work with the channel, understanding the value proposition, partner profitability, etc. We're bringing several of our partners into this process, [having them] come and speak to the sales teams and build more of that collaborative relationship together.

This is something … we're doing right now with our sales teams; then we'll have embedded check points to ensure we continue to drive our partner model throughout the organization.

What's your biggest challenge?

Jones: One significant one: When we have an opportunity, our success average is very high. The key for us in working with our partners is [to] make sure we're getting more of the opportunities collectively built together.

If you would have asked me this question six months ago, I would have said that one of the biggest hurdles was getting over the hump relative to the initiatives we're trying to drive from a channel perspective truly embedded with our field. I think we made good progress there. Now, it's how … we energize our partner community to get out there and help us get those at-bats where we have the opportunity to compete.

So, how do you energize Juniper partners?

Jones: It ties to a lot of things we talked about earlier around the key areas: focusing on growth with some of the new business models we want to work with our partner on, for example, cloud offerings and usage-based models to help with differentiation, making investments in the partners that invest with us, and getting more creative around demand generation.

Where is the growth opportunity for Juniper partners?

Jones: We find that the partners who are most successful with us are the ones focusing on key areas, investing and aligning with us -- meaning, collaborating with us. For example, there's a couple of emerging things happening in the industry that partners can center around, and I believe Juniper has a very unique capability to lead partners in these areas. That's cloud-based offerings and software-defined networking.

We have a couple of programmatic things, in these areas, that we will be announcing over the next 30 to 45 days that will help our partners build practices with us.

Another is, help us work together in building a brand in a certain domain or industry. We find the successful partners are the ones that get deep within a key area rather than be an inch deep and a mile wide in what they offer.

The last piece is services. And we already talked about how passionate we are about this area.

Are any accounts off limits to Juniper partners?

Jones: In short, no. In enterprise sales, we collaboratively work with the channel. We're upfront with partners. There are accounts that we've had legacy relationships with, but at the same time, if there are opportunities where we can work together, we'd like the opportunity to do that.

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