Commscope refines channel strategy for North America with new channel management model

Longtime Commscope Canadian country manager Karen Pugliese, who recently became Commscope’s Partner Leader Americas in a rejigged management model, talks with ChannelBuzz about what partners can expect in 2021.

Karen Pugliese, Commscope’s Partner Leader, Americas

Commscope, a longtime provider of cabling products, became more directly involved with more of the IT solution provider community through their 2019 acquisition of Arris, which brought them RUCKUS’ wireless and wired networking solutions, and a new venue and campus division. Then last year, when Raelyn Kritzer, Commscope’s former enterprise channel chief who had come with RUCKUS, left for Apple, major changes were made to how channel is managed globally. Part of the fallout of this is that Karen Pugliese, who had been Commscope’s country manager in Canada for a decade, was promoted to an Americas role, as Partner Leader, Americas. That puts her in a driver’s seat to oversee some significant changes that will be rolled out to the Commscope channel in North America in 2021.

When Kritzer departed, the global channel leader role disappeared and was broken into multiple components.

“After she left, we separated the assets of the channel into three pieces,” Pugliese told ChannelBuzz. “One was global channel marketing, which is currently owned by Gina Foy. One was the partner programs piece. And the third was having partner leaders in the different regions, like Americas and APAC.”

Pugliese’s channel domain in North America is somewhat complicated.

“When I joined Commscope I was on the structured cable side of the business, and when we acquired Arris I took over the Ruckus side of the business,” she said. “Those two sides have completely different distribution channels. The Ruckus side then was Tech Data, Synnex and Scansource [although the Scansource relationship has since ended]. On the cabling side was Anixter and Graybar.” That side became much more complicated when WESCO purchased Anixter last year, and Canada’s Competition Bureau required that some pieces in Canada be divested for the deal to go through, including their DataCom business. Guillevin International, a Canadian distributor of industrial products, purchased the divested portions and they are now a Commscope distributor as well.

Complicating things further is that the divisions among the actual partners aren’t as clear as one might expect, given the different markets and distributors.

“There is some overlap among the partners, because there are some solution providers who do cabling,” Pugliese said. “We were also surprised when we looked at it how many of the structured cable partners were also in the Ruckus part of the world. About 1/3 of partners do both, about 1/3 are just Ruckus, and 1/3 just do structured cabling.”

Commscope sells through a hybrid Go-to-Market model, but the model’s operation is different in the company’s four divisions: MSL/cable; home networks;  outdoor wireless (which is mobile network operator focused) and venue and campus, which is where the RUCKUS business is situated.

“In the venue and campus side, the percentage of business sold through partners is in the mid to high 90s,” Pugliese said. “Our focus there is to sell everything through the channel, and drive demand with partners in the market.”

Commscope presently has channel programs for Elite Partners, National Partners and Solution Providers, with a partner who would qualify for more than one being placed in the one that gives them the most benefits.

“We have partners who do their certifications, get authorized, and have the ability to issue warranties –  which is big because we have a 25 year warranty – and with some that’s all they do,” Pugliese said. “My focus is more on those partners with a deeper commitment where there is more of a curated approach. The challenge is how do we build a curated approach, because each group of partners requires different aspects of focus.”

A key initiative for 2021 involves expanding the program ecosystem to provide that focus to more partner types.

“We have key initiatives which are focused on taking this curated approach to consultant and integrator programs, as well as to regional partners,” Pugliese said. “We hit pause on consultant and integrator programs earlier, but they have changed their businesses in the last six years, and we revisited that, which including taking the last four months to have a listening tour. The result is new Consultant and Integrator programs, which are projected to launch fully in September.”

Some components will be available before that, however.

“This will be a soft launch, where some aspects will launch earlier,” Pugliese indicated.

The other set of changes involves finding a way to accommodate Americas partners with a significant business in other geos.

“We have lots of large partners who are extending beyond their borders, and we are seeing North American partners follow their customers into geos like the Middle East or Asia Pacific,” Pugliese said. “That’s incenting us to look at how we identify terms around a partner. We need to find ways to enable and support that.”

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