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Channel legend hired by Dell looks to establish roots in Canada

Frank Vitagliano

Frank Vitagliano has been around the channel block a few times in his career. The recently hired channel director for Dell Computer has devoted 25 of his 40 years in high tech to channel business.

Vitagliano told CDN that he just enjoys working with partner and he is excited about his new opportunity with Dell. But, he does come during uncertain times in the history of the Round Rock, Tex.-based computing vendor.

The company is going through a leveraged buyout but that did not scare him off. Vitagliano plans to get to know the Canadian channel partners soon as it will be a major part of his responsibility along with enhancing the company’s current channel strategy with managed services providers.

CDN got an opportunity to interview Vitagliano on his first week at Dell and the following is an edited transcript.

CDN Now: You have been in the channel for most of your career. Dell is only five years into its channel life. Are you going to have to change the culture at Dell to make it more of a channel centric one?

Frank Vitagliano: I don’t know too much about changing the culture. The last five years there had to have been great; making the transition to the channel. There was a really motivation for them to make the move. It made sense for a number of reasons. There was a recognition that there needed to be another approach and create a way to work with the channel effectively. That transition is frankly well under way. They have facilitated a win-win approach with the channel. In my experience it’s not too much different than any other company or a company with hybrid routes-to-market. There’s always transition that people go through and the realization is there are always a way to do things better. The channel direction for Dell is on-going and it’s not anything that I need to change. The team has done a great job and I will help them drive this direction.

CDN Now:  You leave Juniper Networks after seven years. What can you say about the company and where they stand in the market today?

F.V.: Obviously I would rather talk about Dell and what I would like to do from a Dell standpoint. I will say my experience at Juniper has been a terrific seven years. I left a lot of friends and colleagues that were very close to me and I wish them all the best.

CDN Now: Looking over your resume; you’ve spent about 40 years in the channel. What keeps you going after all this time?

F.V.: I started at a very young age. I was 17 at IBM and I worked in a number of different roles. I was there for the introduction of the IBM PC. I spend 25 years or so in the channel and it’s been a great experience. I get up every day and I’m excited about what I do. I identified early on in my career that I enjoy working with business partners. At IBM they bring about a lot of different experiences for employees and folks cycle through with partners and then with end users or go internal. I decided to stay at the partner side because I enjoy it and I love to understand how they do business. Another challenge I like is how a vendor can work with them and help mutual customers to be successful.

CDN Now: You join Dell at an uncertain time in its history because of the leveraged buyout that’s on the go. You certainly weren’t scared by it or you would not have taken the job. But, what makes you so optimistic about the situation?

F.V.: Obviously I was thinking about what to do next. I was working on a couple of things and I’ve had the great fortune of working with world class companies such as IBM and Juniper. With Dell they transformed the industry. I would watch them at IBM and I competed with them for a number of years. The second piece for me was that I’m a channel guy. I was convinced that the transition to a hybrid set of routes-to-market was real and sustainable. I also know Greg Davis for a lot time. We worked at IBM together and I knew the challenge he has. I can tell you that Dell is committed to the channel and that was important for me. The third thing is the overall product solution set. From what I have seen with the acquisitions they have made to transform Dell into an end-to-end company; that is going well. These are the things I look at and how I came to my decision.

CDN Now: Did you analyze Dell’s go-to-market strategy before you accepted the job and how would you evaluate it?

F.V.: I think my analysis of Dell channel plan is it was well thought out and sometimes it’s easy to analyze and spend time learning it from a partner point of view. Greg Davis in my assessment has the right focus in place and, honestly it’s like any other channel program. It doesn’t matter if it’s from 25 years ago or 25 minutes ago you can do it better and there are things to work on as a vendor. It does not matter how long you have been working on it and how well you understand the partner, you can always make it better and that’s the opportunity that I saw when I looked at the program.

CDN Now: CDN recently held its Top 100 Solution Providers gala in Toronto and your name came up a few times in conversation with the partners. Part of the conversation was that you were coming on board Dell to fix things. From what I’ve seen of the Canadian operation they have been doing well slowly building up its channel. Do you have to fix a few things in the U.S. channel?

F.V.: Not at all! The reason that I’m on board is because of the success the team has enjoyed to date. From five years ago Greg Davis and his team have put together a tremendously successful and growing channel. Me coming on board is a reflection of that success. My focus on Dell will be on a set of solution providers that will enable us to go wider and deeper. It’s not a matter of fixing something but more about sustaining and continuing to grow and being more effective. I also want to attract other partners who want to do business with us.

CDN Now: Have you taken a look at the Dell channel business in Canada? Part of your new responsibility will be for Canada. What are your impressions of the channel here?

F.V.: I have not looked at it in great detail. I have talked to channel leaders in last couple of days and I will be at the Dell Partner Summit in Toronto on the 15th of May. I plan to be up there for that and I’m open to the opportunity to spend more time with partners in Canada and internal teams.

CDN Now: One of the areas that gets talked about a lot when it comes to Dell is managed services. The company did acquire Silverback a few years ago. Do you have to work on Dell’s go-to-market strategy with managed services providers in your mind?

F.V.: First of all, it’s a very significant area of opportunity for all of us. The focus on the cloud and infrastructure how do you manage it? The answer is yes and there is work to be done. I do not view it as work to be done but a big opportunity and focus. We need to spend some time on it. Beyond that I can’t comment on it too much as it’s only been five days on the job and I have not had an opportunity to understand it in any level of detail.

CDN Now: Dell has acquired a lot of companies recently. Many of them have a significant channel network. Will you be working on integrating these partners into the main PartnerDirect program?

F.V.: Yes, there’s always a kind of competing authorization aspect when acquiring a company with a channel presence. We don’t want to come in a certainly disrupt anything that would take away from that. A lot of partners are vested and have made decisions to work with that vendor and you do not want to impact that in anyway. On the other hand there is clearly a need to figure out how to effectively integrate most of them into the overall program so they have a seamless set of end-to-end solutions that they can leverage. Another thing is do they have the technical expertise or a business practice in place. So it’s a balancing act and the plan is to, where it makes sense, do the seamless integration into the overall partner program. I expect to work on this for a long period of time because it has to be done carefully. The last thing I want to do is recognize from a partner standpoint when then make an investment in  a vender  and make significant changes without making sure the business partners are on board.

CDN Now: Do you have a channel philosophy?

F.V.: I do and it’s the following: solution providers have a lot of choice in the marketplace and a lot of vendors they can partner with. My philosophy is – as a vendor – we have to do everything possible to make products end-to-end with our offering. The way we go to market makes us a vendor solution providers want to partner with. In every category there are three or four major vendors and unless you are the only game in town you have to provide value to the partner for them to choose to do business with you. When they do choose you then you have to strive to be strategic in the relationship and that is how I look it for me personally.