Juniper’s Gordon Mackintosh Has a Vision for the New Channel Experience—and It’s AI-Driven

Published On: December 16, 2020Categories: Buzz, Partner Success, XaaS

Juniper’s Gordon Mackintosh Has a Vision for the New Channel Experience—and It’s AI-Driven graphic

When Gordon Mackintosh was appointed to lead Juniper’s global partner and virtual sales organization earlier this year, he never anticipated a pandemic or a flip-of-the-switch surge in worldwide demand for networking and security. Yet Juniper is closing out 2020 stronger than ever: it has fortified its technology portfolio with the acquisitions of Mist Systems, 128 Technology and Apstra while recently being named a leader in Gartner’s 2020 Magic Quadrant for Wired and Wireless LAN Access Infrastructure and Gartner’s 2020 Magic Quadrant for Data Center and Cloud Networking, and a challenger in Gartner’s 2020 Magic Quadrant for Network Firewalls. All of this differentiates and propels the company as it sets its sights on the enterprise market.

Gordon kicked off his first 90 days (which is also the name of a book he highly recommends) with a listening tour to deeply understand Juniper partners. He’s now taking that knowledge and launching a new partner program, aligning Juniper sales and partners to drive collaborative selling all the while leading with an AI-driven strategy for partners.

Below are some highlights from our lively conversation:

What were the key insights you picked up when you were out there listening to your partners?

A couple of things. One is that partners needed help to understand how they could best earn incentives. The second thing is that some partners felt like our sales organization didn’t always understand their value proposition and the economics of how they work. To solve this, we’re creating self-service systems that give partners a higher level of visibility around their performance and earning potential. We’re also making sure that we’re forming stronger, more profitable partnerships by offering three Partner Plus Programs: Enterprise, Service Provider and Accelerate with those partners who want to co-invest and be bold with Juniper.

I also learned that Juniper partners are fiercely loyal, believe in our cutting-edge technology, and are excited for new ways to make their customers successful.

How will you create that alignment and insight for partners?

We have a vision of using transparency to drive tighter partnerships within our partner community. Partners can use our self-service tools to view their sales pipeline as well as the amount of deal registration business they are bringing to the partnership. They can also see how they’re performing against incentives, and even model different sales and incentive scenarios. Success comes from having an equal partnership with transparency around what’s working and what’s not.

Are there any adjustments you want to make to Juniper’s partner portfolio?

We still need to overcome the general perception that Juniper predominantly serves the service provider and cloud markets. Our technology is a best-kept secret in the enterprise space so we want partners to understand the power of our enterprise portfolio, how it’s growing, and how it’s enabled and backed by AI. The enterprise is definitely an expansion opportunity for our existing partner base. We are laser-focused on use cases that will change networking for the cloud era: Cloud delivered AI-driven solutions, WAN solutions that can handle cloud scale and agility, and Cloud-ready data center solutions for public and private data centers. All of these have security as a foundational element.

What attracts partners to Juniper?

Partners are excited about our growth, our position in the market and by the fact that we are a partner-friendly company that is evolving to be even more so. I’m also very keen on us not becoming over distributed in the number of partners we recruit. It’s not good for us as a vendor or for the partner because it limits partner margin, which in turn limits the amount of investment that partners put into our business.

Also, what we’re doing with Mist, and other acquisitions is a real game changer. We’re looking to win the next decade of networking and you don’t do that by having “me-too” technology. You do it by having a highly differentiated technology. Partners want growth and healthy margins, and that’s what we’re offering.

Are you looking to recruit new types of partners?

We are focused on working with the right number of partners. With that said, we’re also looking for partners that can help get us into the enterprise space, particularly in Wi-Fi, switching and security—partners with advanced skills in delivering managed services that can help us take that proposition to market.

What are your thoughts on the marketing pivot towards hyper-personalization?

Big data digitization is already reshaping both customer and partner experiences. I’ll give you an example. A couple of years ago, I was doing some online research for companies that could help me build a more futuristic partner portal and I was on a website when I got a call on my cell phone from the company. They knew that I was in the market at that very moment because they were watching as I was searching, and I took the demo right then and there. Ultimately, I didn’t buy that product but the experience was fantastic, and that’s the power we are talking about here. 

How are you supporting partners throughout the customer lifecycle?

We’ve got four of the top 10 Fortune companies running wired or wireless LAN from Juniper. They’re getting a flavor for AI and Mist, and we’re rolling that technology out across security and SD-WAN with future acquisitions. We’re going to have this full stack of solutions across the enterprise and when the customers get a taste for one flavor, they’re going to have such a great experience that they’re going to be hungry for the next. That’s where a business transformation model—the land, adopt, expand and renew motion—comes in and we’re helping partners understand how to best use it. We’ve got to share data and help our partners deliver a compelling offer on that second solution so that we can maximize the value we deliver to our customers.

What is the potential of AI for partners? How can it help on the partner side?

It’s all about the user-specific experience. Our cloud is taking public information from multiple networks all across the world—those top 10 Fortune companies I mentioned, along with massive universities—and it’s learning all the time, recognizing patterns and automatically fixing network issues. Wherever we have AI, we see ticketing in the IT department drop dramatically and fast, and as it scales, the intelligence is going to get even better. The ability to take that intelligence and use it as a sales platform will be very powerful.

What are you doing at Juniper in terms of diversity and inclusion?

We’ve assembled a global team made up of many different and diverse backgrounds. The innovation that comes from differing perspectives fuels transformation, and transformation is what ultimately drives innovation and success. Also, many people on our virtual sales teams are early in their careers. They bring fresh ideas to the table, which serves as a springboard for change across the company.

Lastly, does Juniper have any other innovations in the pipeline for partners that you’d like to share?

We are launching a new business transformation enablement program for partners to guide them through the process of moving from a traditional sales model to a software subscription, XaaS business model. The program is comprehensive and content-rich, and offers a consultant to help them through their transition. This isn’t like flipping a switch; it’s something they need to do over a timeframe of years. We’re going to be there with them in lockstep. At the end of the day, the percentage of recurring revenues increases a partner’s business valuation by about 10X. All the partners want to get there, but it doesn’t happen overnight.

Photo of Gordon and his father, taken at a football game during the season that Gordon’s favorite boyhood club, St Mirren, won promotion back into the Scottish Premier League.

Scots are known for being bold yet sincere and definitely good-humored, and Gordon is no exception. They’re also known for their love of football (soccer). 

A lifelong fan of the St Mirren Football Club, Gordon attended all of the team’s home games as a young boy with his father, creating some of his fondest childhood memories. During that time, his grandfather served on St Mirren’s Board of Directors, working alongside Sir Alex Ferguson, who went on to tremendous success with Manchester United and is known today as one of the greatest football managers of all time. If you ever have the chance to chat with Gordon, ask him how he arranged for his father to meet Sir Alex. It’s quite a story.

The family connections with football have continued to the present day. Not only did Gordon’s sister Kate marry one of St Mirren’s Hall of Fame players, but his nephew Max now plays professional football in Scotland, and his daughter Beth will play in college in 2021. 

Whether the subject is football or business, Gordon brings big energy to everything he does, and his rise to head of global partners and virtual sales at Juniper is no surprise. Those who know him know he is a winner, and I look forward to sharing many more future conversations and learning just a bit more about football.

If you want to hear more about my discussion with Gordon, Juniper’s 2021 partner strategy, or just anything in the channel space, you can reach me at or connect with me on LinkedIn.

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