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Top Gun 51 Profile: Nitel’s Taylor Castronova on SD-WAN, Changing Channel Approach

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There are loads of suppliers in the marketplace but their channel programs aren’t all on equal footing. Partner and customer success demand a channel leader who stands a cut above, and who can work closely with stakeholders while navigating an industry where change is an ongoing phenomenon.

Today, Channel Partners and Channel Futures turn our attention to another such executive in our inaugural Top Gun 51 class: Nitel channel chief and SVP of sales and account development Taylor Castranova.

Nitel's Taylor Castranova

Nitel’s Taylor Castranova

It’s been a busy year for Nitel, which rebranded in 2018. Castranova took us through not only the organization’s own change, but some of its recent channel highlights and future plans — plus her thoughts on the best part about working in the channel.

Channel Partners: We’re coming up on the one-year mark since Nitel rebranded. Can you share your perspective on how that’s gone so far, particularly from a partner perspective?

Taylor Castranova: We not only rebranded Nitel in terms of logo, website [and so on], but we took an entirely different approach to the channel as a whole. The visual rebranding was just one element of a broader transformation we went through as an organization. We regionalized the sales teams, sales engineers, project management and account management teams to provide dedicated resources and to support the promise of the new brand to deliver simplicity to all partners and customers. From a partner perspective, the rebranding allowed us to more effectively communicate who Nitel is and what our core competencies are.

CP: What kinds of feedback are you getting from partners about Nitel’s expanded partnership with Cisco?

TC: The partnership has been well-received. Cisco is a respected industry name and teaming up with them allows us to offer unique SD-WAN features and functionalities. With multiple SD-WAN platforms to choose from, partners can focus on a customer’s business needs instead of forcing them into a specific solution. Also, since we’re delivering the service over the Nitel Connect SD-WAN platform, we can offer customers more predictable application performance by routing select traffic over our private backbone.

We recently unveiled our “Top Gun 51,” a list of today’s channel executives who deserve recognition for building and executing programs in a way that drives partner, customer and supplier success.

CP: On a related note, where do you see the SD-WAN market going?

TC: With hybrid networking continuing to grow, customers are implementing SD-WAN as a way of diversifying their existing MPLS service. SD-WAN is not the MPLS replacement we originally thought it would be; at the same time, security is almost always part of SD-WAN conversations. With the most prominent SD-WAN platforms integrating firewall capabilities – including every platform Nitel supports – we see an increasing convergence of these two technologies.

CP: What have some of your other highlights of 2019 so far?

TC: In 2019, we launched our Cisco Secure SD-WAN solution and articulated the benefits of the Nitel Connect SD-WAN platform as a way to improve predictability in the middle mile. Partners have seen the value of our multiplatform SD-WAN strategy coupled with last-mile options ranging from common DIA and cable to technologies like fixed wireless, 4G and satellite. This has resulted in year-over-year growth in SD-WAN sales of 173%. This year we also expanded our sales support and partner support teams as a result of onboarding over 200 new subagents so far this year.

CF: The channel business – like the IT industry overall – has obviously changed in recent years. What are the biggest evolutions in the channel from your point of view? What changes do you see coming in the near future?

TC: The biggest shift I’ve seen is a move toward providing total solutions through a more consultative approach versus the one-product-fits-all approach of yesterday. As businesses become more complex, customers require …

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