Juniper Networks set the goals for new management

With former IBM chief Samer Shaar recently taking the helm, Juniper Network's Middle East arm is preparing for a new era. At the company's recent channel summit in Portugal, EMEA VP Gert-Jan Schenk spelt out what's expected.

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By  Andrew Seymour Published  July 5, 2008

With former IBM chief Samer Shaar recently taking the helm, Juniper Network's Middle East arm is preparing for a new era. At the company's recent channel summit in Portugal, EMEA VP Gert-Jan Schenk spelt out what's expected.

Juniper Networks is proof that you can get a very long way in a short space of time in the Middle East market - provided you put the investment in. Four years ago, you could count the number of regionally-based employees on one hand, but now the network infrastructure firm boasts close to 70 staff around the Middle East.

Yet such swift expansion - coupled with the fact that a rising portion of its US$900m EMEA annual sales is now derived from the Middle East - has also brought about the need for change and a new approach.

Earlier this year Juniper parted company with local boss Mohamad Abdul-Malak, replacing him recently with ex-IBM Middle East chief Samer Shaar.

Gert-Jan Schenk, senior VP operations EMEA at Juniper, says the reorganisation was a necessary step given its ambitious targets: "I was the one from an EMEA management team perspective four years ago that initiated the activities in the Middle East.

I firstly hired Fadi Qasem, who is now the professional services manager, and then Mohamad Abdul-Malak who became the sales manager, and that team brought the region to a certain level.

We went from start-up to mature start-up phase, but the size of our company, the richness of our product portfolio and the goals we now have mean that other objectives become important besides sales.

We are now in a phase where structure and leadership are becoming really important, and that was the reason we attracted Samer Shaar to bring the region to the next level," revealed Schenk.

The new Middle East boss has already been issued with a four-point plan of action, starting with meeting the kind of sales targets that will allow it to drive aggressive market share gains.

Shaar is also being measured on his ability to further expand Juniper's local infrastructure beyond sales and into areas such as customer services and logistics.

"The other objectives I have given him is to hire as many local people as he can and to groom talent from within because the Middle East region is growing," explained Schenk.

With Juniper's routing hardware and security appliances portfolio now being widened to include Ethernet switching products, Juniper's dependence on the reseller channel as a route to its core service provider and enterprise customer base remains as important as ever.

"Juniper is looking more on the switching platform - that is a very clear message," said Sandeep Kokroo, network and telecom sales manager at Juniper Elite partner Alpha Data. "But they are not pushing partners to move directly to their switching platform and drop their existing manufacturers.

They are trying to say that history has proven that when there is a new generation of networking happening, the switching happens organically."

Perhaps surprisingly for a company that makes no secret of its desire to shoot down Cisco, Schenk does not regard the expansion of Juniper's already-established Middle East reseller channel a priority. "My objective is not partner recruitment - my objective is having the right partners and aligning them to our go-to-market model," he insisted.

Whether that philosophy will change as the company's switching strategy takes shape remains to be seen, especially as pundits continue to question whether its existing channel has enough of the right skills for that.

Alastair Edwards, senior analyst at market analysis firm Canalys, suggests Juniper might need to consider further recruitment.

"A proportion of its partners are coming from the Netscreen security world and don't yet have the experience of selling across the complete networking infrastructure - although many do - so Juniper needs to help these partners to broaden their skills and capabilities, while also looking to bring in new infrastructure partners," he said.

Juniper's new MEA management team will be under no illusions as to the size of the task ahead.

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