Two of Office Depot's key partners, master agents Telarus and MicroCorp, about the legacy Schijns leaves behind.

James Anderson, Senior News Editor

January 23, 2019

4 Min Read
Change, transform

Former Office Depot executive Janet Schijns made the company’s channel program what it is today, according to two key partners.

Two Office Depot master-agent representatives spoke to Channel Partners about Schijns’ ongoing legacy in the channel.

“Without Janet coming on board, it’s doubtful that the program would have ever seen the light of day in the channel,” Telarus co-Founder Patrick Oborn said. Oborn, whose business partnered with Office Depot last year, praised Schijns’ 14-month tenure


JS Group’s Janet Schijns

Schijns left her leadership position at Office Depot this month and has since returned to JS Group, the channel consultancy she ran from 1997 to 2008. She was most recently the executive vice president and chief services and solution officer for Office Depot.

The company confirmed her departure, saying its “focus and commitment to services has not changed.”

Office Depot engaged in a full-scale shift to a services-based recurring revenue model throughout Schijns’ stint. The corporation bought CompuCom and recruited a leadership team well-weathered in the world of IT services. Schijns and former Lenovo COO Gerry Smith, who remains Office Depot’s CEO, topped this list.

Schijns is well-known among partners for her channel-chief positions at Motorola and Verizon Enterprise. JS Group had already helped develop Motorola and Verizon’s channel strategies before she joined the respective companies. When she joined Office Depot as senior vice president of services for copy, print and tech, her new employer boasted of her track record in the channel.

We were among the crowd of channel folk clamoring for answers when Verizon confirmed her exit in July 2017. It wasn’t long before we learned she would be taking on what was deemed by many to be a surprising new venture.


Telarus’ Patrick Oborn

“Janet has always been a powerhouse leader in the channel, especially after six very successful years running the Verizon program,” Oborn said. “When she announced her departure from Verizon, most of us assumed she would do what most other channel chiefs do: move to a similar company in need of strong leadership. The announcement that Office Depot was her destination caught us all off-guard, but also raised the curiosity factor on what Office Depot was up to.”


MicroCorp’s Karin Fields

MicroCorp CEO Karin Fields, who like Oborn had already developed a relationship with Schijns, said she didn’t know what to think at the time.

“Janet was a key influencer for our industry during her time at Verizon,” she said. “When she moved to Office Depot, I wasn’t really sure what her vision was.”

But it didn’t take long for those doubts to subside, and Fields’ company signed an agreement with Office Depot last spring. Telarus also teamed up with the new channel player, thanks in part to Schijns’ sterling reputation.

“Would we have taken an appointment from Office Depot before Janet was hired? Probably not,” Oborn said. “Over the past year, we’ve seen the great team she’s assembled of mostly telecom-channel veterans who understand the importance of agent relationships and the value of recurring revenue.”

Oborn said Office Depot’s outsourced managed IT offering will be a key Telarus talking point in 2019. His company has encouraged its partners to fill the third-party “vacuum” resulting from the death of transactionally-obsessed VARs.

“That [Office Depot] offering alone allows agents to bring value and compete in a swim lane previously reserved for local MSPs,” he said.

Schijns has publicly echoed the sentiment that services and customer experience are just as important as …

… a company’s actual technology.

The Future

Oborn and Fields said Office Depot remains in good hands. Former ShoreTel channel chief Heather Tenuto joined the business two months after Schijns came on board. Tenuto shouldered more and more of the indirect sales load as Office Depot tasked Schijns with a big picture road map for both direct and indirect.

Tenuto currently serves as vice president of SMB services and will be Office Depot’s most familiar face in the channel as the company pushes further into its services niche.

Our Kris Blackmon noted last week that Office Depot’s stock price increased 24 percent in November while the company is still answering questions about how its CompuCom acquisition impacts potential channel partners.

Meantime, Schijns launched JS Group’s first podcast Tuesday. She encouraged startups to take a practical look at themselves and develop a plan. The 13-minute episode offers advice applicable to all companies but included a classic Janet Schijns reference to “millennial revolution” that the channel and all industries are undergoing.

Beware, legacy players. The born-in-the-cloud competition is coming for you, and is “going to take your business.”

“Everybody talks about a digital transformation,” she said. “It’s not a transformation any more; it’s a digital normal.”

It’s unwise for us to speculate on if Schijns will pursue another channel-chief position in the near future, but a decade of following the channel dynamo has taught us one thing: Expect the unexpected.

“I am excited to see where she lands next and how further she will continue to influence the indirect channel,” Fields said.

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About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

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