John Byrne, the worldwide channel chief for Dell EMC

Published: November 4th, 2016

AUSTIN, TEX. – John Byrne, the newly named worldwide channel chief for Dell EMC, made a splash at the recently concluded Dell EMC World by doing something no other person in his position has ever done. And, that is to lock in a vendor’s channel program for one solid year.

This seemingly small move will ensure that channel partners are able to better plan for the longer term. It’s not unusual for any channel chief to make changes to a partner program – usually quarterly – because sometimes market conditions alter dramatically. Mind you not all of this bad; sometimes it works in favour of the partner. Take for example the way Cisco changed its VIP program to address the 2008 meltdown by removing certain costs out of the framework for a channel community that dealing with cash flow pressure.

But channel partners want stability and predictability and Byrne, who was formerly with AMD, did that in one fell swoop. And, strategically it made a lot of sense for Dell EMC because Byrne and the channel team have introduced a lot of new elements to the program and they are dealing with two very different partner bases with Dell and EMC. Channel partners need time to digest all these new elements so giving the channel community a full year to plan and execute without changes might be the right move at the right time.

CDN sat down with Byrne to talk about this along with many other things from the new channel program in a one-on-one interview.

The following is an edited transcript.

CDN Now: Do you have a channel philosophy you want to instill at Dell EMC?

John Byrne: Partners are an extension of the sales team. They are partners and we are vendors and ultimately we need to be working together hand-and-hand in unison for a common goal. I want to deal with people who share the same desire to do something remarkable. From people you make great products and you can make a lot of money. That is my lens. I want to be that person who makes it simple, predictable and I want them to be making money.

CDN Now: Partners have asked me to ask you about the Titanium Black tier. Partners noticed you saying the word “exclusive” a few times and they feel it means the only way to attain Titanium Black is to be 100 per cent exclusive to Dell EMC. Is that the plan come Feb. 1st 2017?

J.B.: No! I did say that word on stage and want to achieve it. But what I’m after is to create tier envy. People talking to you about Titanium Black feels good. This is a unique moment in time and I feel this can be part of history. When you have this opportunity with a privately-owned company with huge scale and fantastic people partners can feel the momentum so let’s have fun with it.

What I want to make clear this December is the criteria for each tier (Gold, Platinum, Titanium & Titanium Black). I have to be sensitive and transparent with this program. It has to be consistent. Both programs are different in ways. To get into Dell you needed $5 million and its $100 million to get into EMC. So how do you make that work? We are modeling that now and for Titanium Black it’s not going to be open to thousands or even hundreds of people. It’s going to be a certain criteria and then a plus. And, I think you have to be first Titanium to be Titanium Black.

CDN Now: How many partners do you think you’ll have in Titanium Black?

J.B.: Unfair to say because we are just six weeks or so into the new company. We have to be thoughtful. It’s not going to be any number. That’s not what I want to create here. We will take a look at partners with three years with EMC and Dell. Look at their share of wallet and see what partners really want to grow with us. Those are who we are dating now, not who we will marry.

CDN Now: How do you see the transition of Premier, Premier Plus and Preferred partners going into those Gold, Platinum and Titanium tiers?

J.B.: EMC’s channel business and sales report up through Greg Ambulos (former worldwide channel chief of EMC). The products, the dollars will sit under marketing. In the Dell channel business sales will report up through the divisions and the program dollars will be centralized. We are centralizing all of it including the dollars and the operations team. The strategy is to get centralized and we don’t have a lot of time to educate this internally so let’s go.

CDN Now: How are you going to police and enforce the rules on deal registration?

J.B.: We are having webcasts on this and we are going to talk about the criteria for partners, see who is on board, money for front end and back end rebates, and MDF, but the big thing is going to be the rules of engagement. When you look at deal registration; it’s the ultimate form of protection. There is zero tolerance. And, zero tolerance is zero tolerance. At EMC for instance if you abuse the system you don’t get the commission the first time. Abuse it a second time and you do not have a badge (termination). Its first come, first serve with deal registration but I think it’s fair to have a discussion about the current motion that it should be flexible. If a partner has been working with a customer for many years and has been investing in us for a long time with headcount, training, certification and they can say to me ‘hey John the customer loves me’ but for some reason you fell asleep at the wheel or your guy was on vacation and could not get the deal registered before another partner finds the deal; is that the right thing to do? I am thinking about it. Partners investing in me and if I know you are all in I have to do the right thing and show you that I too can operationalize. I am working on this and I will have it resolved with clarity this December.

CDN Now: Dell Canada’s channel chief Tara Fine has left to take a similar role at VMware Canada. So currently the Canadian operation is without a channel leader. How important is it to you to have a channel chief in Canada and in other regions for Dell EMC?

J.B.: It’s critical. I said this on stage that we will have hand selected leaders on the channel team. We are not picking the best of the direct sales guys and putting them in. I want people who understand the partner DNA and get the products, and the business dynamics of a partner. They are different than those Fortune 500 and frankly partners care about customers. This is the sales team and we got to win and they got win big. I want to have a channel chief in Canada. And, expect an announcement from Greg Ambulos by the end of November. The same will happen in LATAM and in Asia Pac.

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