We selected AT&T's Christopher R. Jones and Broadcom's Hock Tan as our Channel Influencers of the Year.

Channel Futures Staff

February 20, 2024

50 Slides

A highlight of our editorial year, Channel Futures is proud to present our Channel Influencers for 2024.

This year’s list features 50 vendor decision-makers, distribution leaders and partner executives, all with one thing in common — they have been noteworthy for their impact and influence on the channel over the past year. Some have made actual headlines for their actions, while others have been behind the scenes taking steps leading to significant benefits – or consequences – for the indirect sales channel.

And we expect that to continue throughout 2024.

Our editorial team singled out two people from this prestigious list as our Channel Futures Channel Influencers of the Year.

Christopher R. Jones, assistant vice president, sales channel, AT&T, is a longtime advocate for the partner community. He has bridged the gap with partners at the carrier, which not long ago officially referred to its channel business as an “alternate” channel.

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Jones and his team have been instrumental in helping AT&T win back market share in an agent channel that frequently turns to cable companies and aggregators to sell connectivity. He also has worked to build better relationships with technology services distributors (TSDs), whose importance to the carrier is now well-known within the AT&T Business C-suite.

No longer is the channel merely a “rounding error” at AT&T, as Telarus chief operating officer Richard Murray described, with several TSDs now ranking among the top partners in the AT&T Alliance Channel.

In the big picture, AT&T’s channel leaders want to take an even bigger bite out of the whopping $33.5 billion AT&T generated in its business division last year. Direct sales has historically dominated the business segment, but CEO John Stankey has vowed that the company needs to expand its distribution channels and third-party cooperation. In particular, the company views the channel as essential in winning over midsize customers from its foes in the cable world. Jones’ Alliance Channel and ACC Business groups, which the carrier realigned just last week under AT&T’s midmarkets division, are seen as key drivers for growth.

“Chris has been a big factor in AT&T’s focus on doubling down and investing in taking its channel program to the next level, inspiring a new level of confidence throughout the channel community and accelerating demand for its solutions,” said Avant CEO Ian Kieninger.

We will recognize Jones on stage at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo, March 11-14, at the Venetian Las Vegas.

Representing the traditional IT channel as our Influencer of the Year is Hock Tan, CEO of Broadcom, which rocked the tech industry in 2023 with its $61 billion purchase of VMware. But it’s what came after that shook the channel to its foundation.

The company proceeded to lay off thousands, and many high-ranking VMware channel executives left the business. Then Broadcom combined VMware products in ways that many partners and their customers see as forcing consumption of — and therefore the need to pay for — unwanted solutions. The pièce de resistance came when Tan and Co. terminated the VMware partner program, initially indicating that a high revenue threshold would be required to get an invitation to the Broadcom program, though now in its public-facing FAQ says that no revenue threshold will be enforced.

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Despite Tan’s repeated proclamations in 2023 of supporting a “robust channel ecosystem” and the acquisition of VMware being a “win-win-win” for customers, partners and future partners, when Broadcom eliminated the VMware partner program before Christmas, some partners took to social media to say they didn’t even receive an email about the news. And so did VMware employees.

“Everyone is surprised by this action,” wrote one user on Reddit. “In fact, … I am hearing about it here.”

Tan hasn’t won many fans in the channel, but it might be for that very reason that he’s had so much impact. Tan, unlike many top CEOs, is right in the middle of making decisions pertaining directly to the channel. And the company’s shareholders have been gleeful, seeing its stock price jump 30% since the acquisition closed and more than 100% since the deal was announced in spring 2022.

Furthermore, it would be short-changing Broadcom's CEO by associating him only with the VMware channel controversy. He now has a legacy of major acquisitions − notably CA and Symantec, and now VMware − that have turned his company into one of the largest and most important enterprise software providers in the world.

Jones and Tan follow in the footsteps of our Channel Futures Channel Influencer hall-of-famers, who include Gavriella Schuster, Janet Schijns, John DeLozier, Jay McBain, Rich Hume, Christopher Trapp, and 2023's honorees: Aryaka's Craig Patterson and Kaseya's Fred Voccola.

See our slideshow above for more on Jones and Tan, as well as the other four-dozen Influencers that we selected as this year’s Channel Futures Channel Influencers.

Download the digital issue featuring in-depth profiles of our Channel Influencers of the Year and a gallery of all of this year's honorees.

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