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Extreme Networks Channel Chief: Partners Can Expect More Support, Enablement

Edward GatelyAs Extreme Networks’ senior director of worldwide partner program and sales business development, Gordon Mackintosh wants the company and its partners to operate together as an engine to fuel growth and profit.

The channel veteran previously held a variety of sales – and specifically, channel sales – leadership roles at Cisco, where he developed go-to-market strategies for Catalyst Switching and was the head of distribution and SMB in the U.K. He was also involved in developing Cisco’s latest partner-led strategy.

Extreme Networks' Gordon MackintoshMackintosh has been with Extreme for two months now and is responsible for the ongoing development of the Extreme Partner Network (EPN) to provide the company’s global partner ecosystem with new revenue streams and growth opportunities.

Last month, the company introduced the ExtremeWireless specialization program, which further enables global channel partners to deliver wireless services to increase customers’ productivity and responsiveness, and extend applications beyond the wired network.

In a Q&A with Channel Partners, Mackintosh talks about his strategy for partner enablement and channel growth, and challenges facing Extreme and its partners.

Channel Partners: Why did you want to become Extreme Networks’ channel chief? How is this role different from your previous roles with Cisco?

Gordon Mackintosh: Really, the main reason was the opportunity to own the entire global partner program and strategy for a company I believe has a great opportunity in front of it. I had done similar roles, maybe at a country level, or I had managed part of the partner program, but this is a great opportunity for me to manage all elements at a global level and really make a difference.{ad}

CP: You’ve been on the job for two months now. What are your plans for the Extreme Partner Network? There was the ExtremeWireless specialization program announcement last month.

GM: The wireless specialization program is really a big first step in terms of where we’ll go in the future. You’ll see much more of a focus on solutions selling, a focus on cloud and a focus on developing programs that support Extreme and the partners in getting to new customers, and reaching those customers in a very profitable way. So we’re really going to hit that hard with focusing on solutions selling and net-new customer acquisition for the partners and for Extreme.

CP: Have you received a lot of input from partners? Have they told you what they like and dislike about the partner program, and would like to see change?

GM: First, the partners are extremely loyal to Extreme, that’s the one big takeaway for me. They really like the …

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… technology and have a lot of customers that have bought the technology for a long time. They feel that Extreme is intimate with them; they feel close to Extreme, they feel that Extreme can react very quickly, is very agile. If they need support or help, they know who to go to. One of the things that was said to me is don’t change that, we love the speed, we love the closeness, we feel like it’s a partnership.

They are looking for more support and help in terms of sales-enablement training around wireless and some of the new technologies, as well as support in helping to find new customers through marketing awareness and new lead generation.

CP: What do you see as the biggest challenges in the networking space?

GM: We’re seeing customers looking to consume more and more as a service, they’re looking to do more with less, they’re looking to become more agile and they’re looking to have lighter IT departments. And they’re looking for new consumption models.

And for any vendor and any partner that’s been more used to a traditional business model, it can be challenging to make that transition. But with our new Extreme cloud offer, we now have a cloud-based networking offer. The second thing is we’re investing in the United States right now in providing our partners the opportunity to do business-transformation training and mentoring with a third-party company so they can get advice around how to move from a CapEx model to an OpEx model, to annuity sales, to software and cloud, etc., which is really important for them. It’s not just a case of expecting their business model to change over time. We have to do that and we have to do that together.

And also just supporting them with more lead generation and enablement around new technologies, so more leads on our new technologies, like our new cloud-based access points, and more training and enablement around the technology itself.

CP: Is Extreme going to be announcing enhancements to meet these challenges?

GM: Absolutely. On the product side, you’ll see more cloud and software announcements over the next few months. And then you’ll see our partner-enablement strategy, training and lead generation become much more focused on cloud and software offerings.

CP: What is Extreme’s partner strategy and has that changed since you came on board?

GM: Our partner strategy is really to focus on enterprise networking, towards our partners for selling into that space, to work very closely together, to be easy to do business with. Those are the important tenets we’ve built up over the past few years.

The future, as I see it in some of the changes that I mentioned before, is to …

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… incentivize our partners even more and support our partners even more in going after new customers and selling some of our new solutions like Extreme cloud, and some of the analytics and management software that we have to give the full customer experience.

CP: Is one of your goals to bring on new partners and different types of partners?

GM: We’re always looking for the right type of partner, the partner that is focused on enterprise networking, whether that’s on-premises or cloud, and we’re always looking to develop relationships with new partners. We will make some investments there.

But we really believe that we’ve got a great set of loyal partners that have been with us a long time, and our primary focus is going to be on making them as successful as possible, and unlocking some of these new customers and new technologies for them so that they can grow and we can grow profitably.

We probably have around 4,000 partners that will transact with us in a given year and about 1,500 that will transact with us on a regular basis. That’s globally. From the U.S. perspective, you’re looking at around 2,000 a year, and 600-700 on a regular basis. We have around 80 diamond and platinum partners in the United States and around 30 to 40 gold partners, and the rest are made up of our silver partners that are managed by our distributors.

CP: Where do you envision Extreme and its partners being a year from now?

GM: We’re relatively small still in terms of some of our competition, as are some of our partners, but I actually think that’s a major advantage for us at the moment with so much change going on in the market in the way that customers are consuming IT and the different things that they’re demanding from the partners. We’re not an oil tanker on the ocean. We can be more of a speedboat, we can react faster, we can turn [more quickly], and I would like to see in a year that we’ve been able to make a change to more solutions selling, selling more software and selling more cloud, and going after new sets of customers.


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