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January 17, 2019
Office Depot, the traditional office supply retailer-turned-IT services provider, has confirmed reports that Janet Schijns, executive vice president and chief services and solution officer, has left the organization.
Schijns and CEO Gerry Smith both joined the company in the summer of 2017 as the board was reshuffling management and doubling down on a services play in an attempt to turn around several consecutive years of dismal financial performance. That fall, Smith told investors that the company wanted to “grow a dependable sticky revenue services-based model over a period of time that sells both services and products.”
Office Depot had already begun to evolve its retail locations into service centers beyond the printing and copying it had been offering for years. But in an era where every company is a tech company, it had to bite the bullet and plunge into IT. Three months after Schijns joined the team, the company announced a $1 billion deal to acquire IT services provider CompuCom. Post-acquisition, her responsibilities grew to include building a services business that catered to the same community she’d spent her career building: business owners, IT consultants, managed service providers and telco agents.
The company’s pivot to IT services geared toward the SMB is paying off. While retail sales continue to decline, they’re more than offset by increased performance by its business solutions division. The company’s strengthened third-quarter 2018 fiscal results announced last November prompted a 24 percent jump in its stock price. There’s not much bad news coming out of Office Depot’s business-services division these days, so Schijns’ departure came as a surprise to many.
Here’s our list of channel people on the move in December.
By the time 2018 came to a close, Schijns’ role had expanded drastically. Originally brought on as a senior vice president to lead Office Depot’s copy, print and tech divisions, she was promoted to executive VP six months into her tenure, with the mandate to bring the products and services businesses together. Then came the responsibility to integrate the CompuCom SMB teams; build both a direct and indirect sales channel; lead the company’s managed and tech services; and run its merchandising efforts. Schijns handed responsibility for the growing channel services business to Heather Tenuto, president of sales, SMB service. Tenuto previously was channel chief at ShoreTel (acquired in 2017 by Mitel). Under Tenuto’s watch, Office Depot has signed deals with master agents including MicroCorp and inked a distribution pact with Google and Nest for CompuCom technicians to install smart devices for SMBs.
Office Depot’s Heather Tenuto
Both Schijns and Office Depot are staying relatively tight-lipped about the reasons behind the split.
“Janet Schijns has left Office Depot,” Danny Jovic, Office Depot’s director of communications, told Channel Partners. “Our focus and commitment to business services through our Workonomy platform has not changed.”
Workonomy is Office Depot’s suite of business services that partners can offer customers.
Despite its improving performance, there are still problem areas within the company. In its third-quarter call last November, investors learned that CompuCom’s sales had dropped by 4 percent. Joseph Lower, Office Depot’s CFO and executive vice president, offered several reasons for the decline, including a large customer going through a reorganization, an unfavorable product mix, investments in growth initiatives, administrative inefficiencies and …
… one-time accounting adjustments.
“These results are very disappointing,” said Lower. “And as Gerry earlier addressed, we have recently made several structural changes to improve our alignment with customer needs and brought in a new sales leader for the company.”
Meanwhile, the CompuCom play hasn’t been uniformly popular among partners. Office Depot had the advantage of an existing retail presence, product line, customer base and distribution chain; with only a 25 percent overlap between CompuCom and Office Depot’s BSD contract unit, the deal brought a phenomenal cross-sell opportunity. The CompuCom acquisition gave it ready-made IT service offerings, and last year saw its first forays into the new combined business model. It developed a small business services platform called BizBox and a “genius bar” type IT service called Tech-Zone, both of which now fall under the Workonomy brand.
But here’s where many in the channel raise their eyebrows. Office Depot’s services bundle is designed to provide SMBs with most of the business services they need, such as digital and social marketing, asset management, CRM and web hosting. Office Depot offers CompuCom tech support and tech dispatch services in many major markets, leaving many partners wondering where they’re supposed to fit in. Despite many MSPs’ protests that Office Depot is in essence spinning up a competing practice, Tenuto insists that its goal is to help managed service providers by supplementing their service offerings, staff and geographical coverage — not replacing them.
When asked about her future plans, Schijns, a longtime fervent advocate of the importance of the channel, said that for now she’s rejoined consulting firm JS Group, which she helped found a decade ago, as CEO and already has an engagement on deck.
Office Depot’s strategy is clear and unyielding, and its services play is clearly paying dividends for investors. But the company is feeling its way through this transition from retailer to managed IT service provider, and the last several years have seen many shake-ups in management, including the resignation of CompuCom president Dan Stone last May. It’s unlikely that Schijns will be the last executive to take a bow before the Office Depot dust settles, but it’s a relatively safe bet that both the company and Schijns will continue to make moves that keep the channel buzzing.
Read more about:Agents
Head of Channel Communities, Zift Solutions
Kris Blackmon is head of channel communities at Zift Solutions. She previously worked as chief channel officer at JS Group, and as senior content director at Informa Tech and project director of the MSP 501er Community. Blackmon is chair of CompTIA's Channel Development Advisory Council and operates KB Consulting. You may follow her on LinkedIn and @zift on X.
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