Jim Burton of UCStrategies had the opportunity to sit down with Lisa Simpson, the new Vice President of Channel Sales and Distribution Strategy, North America, for Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE). In this Executive Insights podcast, discussion topics include the company's product portfolio, ALE in the U.S. in comparison to Europe and Asia, channel strategy, and target growth markets.
Transcript for UCStrategies Catches Up With New Head of Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise Channel Sales in North America
Jim Burton: Welcome to UCStrategies Executive Insights, this is Jim Burton, and I’m joined today by Lisa Simpson, who is the new VP of Channel Sales and Distribution Strategy, North America, for Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise. Lisa, one of the things that I’ve observed in talking to my colleagues over the last number of years is that Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise has come a long way with its product portfolio. And quite frankly, a number of them say that you really have the best product in the market in a number of areas, but somehow, the market just doesn’t seem to know or appreciate that. Would you like to comment on that?
Lisa Simpson: Yeah Jim, thanks, I think it is a wonderful opportunity for us to be recognized by the analyst on our products. I think we have spent a great deal of time, effort, and energy to develop our products and solutions to meet our customer’s needs. Unfortunately, we have not spent as much time in North America on the marketing aspect of our overall products and services. Where we have brand awareness Europe and Asia, we haven’t been as successful in making end customers or channel partners for that matter, aware of our products and solutions.
Jim: Well it’s not uncommon when you’ve got a company that’s located somewhere else in the world, breaking into the U.S. market is always a big challenge, we’ve seen that with other companies, Ericsson was a good example of that. One of the things that I’d like to talk about though is you have a new role and responsibility. And I’d like to hear more about it because clearly there is a change in direction and strategy at Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, and I’d like to understand where you’re fitting in that new strategy.
Lisa: We have had a change in our direction and our strategy, we have a new CEO, we have a new Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, and our focus has been now to drive sustainable revenue going forward, with a three-year plan. So are very focused on what we’re doing and where we’re going. One of the key pillars of that is developing our channel and the overall strategy for the distribution in our go to market plan. So I was brought into the organization earlier this year to develop that strategy for North America specifically, to analyze what we need to do in order to be successful here in North America, and to develop that strategy to bring success to channel partners and grow our market share in a sustainable way here in North America.
Jim: One of the things that my colleagues tell me, and where they are impressed with your product portfolio is that you really have very in-depth quality solutions in both the voice and the data side. That’s something that I think that the people listening to this might want to know a little bit more about. So could you talk about your positioning there, and quite frankly, you might want to even bring up where you want to see competition in that particular space because as we all know, there’s not a lot of people that bridge both of those disciplines.
Lisa: Yes, there’s been a lot of change in the industry in the past six months definitely with the impact on the networking side in particular with Brocade and now with Avaya going through chapter 11 and potentially divesting their data business where Extreme has placed a bid upon that. So Extreme would be bringing in both Brocade and the Avaya data infrastructure business, which is interesting because then you really only have two players in the marketplace that have a complete end-to-end data, voice and UC solution and that’s really Cisco and Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise. And the reason why I think that is important is that when an end customer, when a customer is looking at trying to define everything, particularly that relates to IOT and IOT containment, and how they look to evaluate the entire infrastructure of the network, you want everything to connect, and to connect successfully. And a single throat to choke is really your best option. So the marketplace is really narrowing down into only two players to be able to provide those solutions.
Jim: With your new role, it seems to me that I have two areas to discuss with you; one is your product and your positioning, and one is the channel. And I want to get into the channel a little bit later because I think that so important, but I want to carry on with your product and your positioning. I understand that you’ve done a really good job, according to my colleagues, on focusing on some vertical markets where you really provide some of the best solutions available in the marketplace. So can you talk a little bit about your vertical market strategy in those areas where you have really worked on high quality solutions for your customers?
Lisa: In our targeted approach now, where we’re really being very focused in where we want to serve the marketplace. We’ve defined targeted verticals where we see success across the entire globe, but specifically in North America. Our two main verticals are education and transportation, but we are also focusing on healthcare, hospitality, and government. And within those verticals, which we are taking our solutions and focusing specifically on the needs of those verticals, and developing an entire end-to-end solution to meet those needs, not just today, but going forward. And how that will affect our partners is, today, yes, there are pieces of equipment to be sold, more in that traditional box moving mode, but then we are moving into more of a hybrid scenario, where we still have some cloud, some infrastructure on site before we go completely into the public cloud where we would again be working with our partners to meet those needs of our customers. Where we’re focusing here is building our solutions to meet the needs of those vertical markets, and then working specifically with our partners to help take their entire line card, and develop an entire solution that the partner can then bring to that end customer in those verticals.
Jim: You’ve kind of given me a good way to segue into my next question, and that’s really about helping those channel partners. One of the things that has become very clear, is the channel is going through a very, very difficult time because they are transitioning their financial and business models, as products and technologies change from a CPE version to a cloud version. Where they used to be able to sell big chunks of equipment, now it’s more of an ongoing revenue stream. And so they’re really changing their models for both how they sell, their value proposition to the customer, and what their compensation is. And so the going through a really difficult time, so it seems to me that you are in a unique position to help the channel, but that’s based on your business model. So I guess the question is, what can you do to just help the channel go through this transition period, and quite frankly it really gets down to, can (they) make more money selling your product than they can make selling one of your competitors?
Lisa: Well today that’s certainly the case when you compare our solutions to our competitor’s solutions. Our partners absolutely make more margin on our portfolio then they do on any of the competitive portfolios. We don’t have as much channel conflict, we support our partners with deal registration, and we ensure that we have a very hands-on approach with support for the partner, and what they need to meet the end customer’s solution. We are very channel focused, and we like to make sure that our partners are successful, thus making us successful, but then satisfying the customer’s needs in the end as well, so that exists today. Moving forward, we have a strategy where we are working on more of a channel focus with respect to how can we make our channel successful as this industry migrates to the cloud, private cloud, hosted cloud, and how can we ensure that they are part of the subscription services, the licensing, and that Opex as you discussed. So we are working on some additional training for them, we are working on strategies where we can build solutions together to assist them in being successful, because in our mind at this point, we won’t be successful unless our channel is successful. And it is our goal and our focus to do everything we can to make them successful and to have a satisfied end customer at the end of the deal.
Jim: That’s critically important, I think everybody would agree that you have to have a successful channel if you’ve got a channel strategy. But is there anything, because you made a couple comments about things you’re doing, is there anything specific that you’d like to make sure, I’m going to switch again, we talked about what an end-user would benefit from, but are there things that you can talk about that would be of real value for a prospective channel partner? Reasons that they should look at Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise as their solution going forward as a product to carry to their customers?
Lisa: Yes, as you mentioned at the onset of this call, the idea that we have a clear vision and strategy with products and solutions that are the best in the marketplace, we are financially stable, we are very focused on the success of our partners, and meeting end customer needs and solutions in the verticals that we described. And we have that complete end-to-end portfolio. We’re adding things like additional training and were working on partner strategies to work together to ensure that they are successful, and we’re helping them succeed moving forward through this transition. So it’s the training, it’s providing some vision and insight, certainly providing the best products out there in order to meet the customer’s needs, and then really working closely with our partners to ensure that they’re successful, notwithstanding making better margin with our portfolio than any other.
Jim: Well that brings up a question I think, because we talked about in some respect you’re not as well known in this market for both end users and probably channel partners, is there a good way for people to get more familiar with Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, whether you’re a channel partner or an end-user? I’m happy to provide those links to this podcast so that someone can click on them and go find that information.
Lisa: We are in the process of migrating our website as well to be more accessible to our end customers and to our partners. That should be coming out, I believe, in early Q2. In addition to that, we are also in the process of making more of our case studies available, our customers that have had their needs met by solutions that we provided as they migrate through this transition to cloud. Additionally, we are active in social media. We can be found on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook as well, and Jim, we’re on your site, UCStrategies, which I believe is going to be moving to BCStrategies shortly. So we should be searchable certainly.
Jim: Well absolutely, I mean in some ways were talking as if you’re a new company no one has ever heard of, and of course everybody’s heard about Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise. So it’s not that at all but it’s really important that as people are on a buyer’s journey, to be able to find more information about you because we know they want to look at multiple places. And quite frankly, that’s the reason that were changing from UCStrategies to BCStrategies, is to really help those customers on a buyer’s journey. So will make sure that your information is updated on our current website, and then as we move forward, and you update your website, we’ll keep current with that as well. So, Lisa, this has been delightful. I look forward to having another call with you in the future to follow up and see how some of your plans have worked out for you. Maybe even talk more specifically about some successes that you’ve with some channel partners and their successes with end users. So again, thank you for your time today, I really appreciate it.
Lisa: Thank you, Jim, I really appreciate it, I look forward to speaking with you again.