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McAfee Partners, Staff Frustrated By Channel Turnover

McAfee's partner program has for the past couple of years been regarded as one of the most channel friendly in the industry. But after two rounds of channel layoffs in five months and persistent speculation that the vendor may be acquired, McAfee channel staff and partners are wondering what's next.

Last week McAfee laid off 125 employees, including at least four channel team members, as part of a restructuring to focus on enterprise security risk management solutions. The move was a reversal from McAfee's August proclamation that it planned to focus on partners that cater to SMBs rather than large enterprises, which was accompanied by the layoff of 20 channel employees.

David Dickison, senior vice president of North American channels at McAfee, said the recent layoffs were the result of an internal sales reorganization around three new business segments: small/consumer (1-100 seats), mid-market (100-1000 seats) and enterprise (1000 and above).

Sources told CRN the recent layoffs affected McAfee's antivirus sales team and also included some channel staff being moved over to sales. Dickison declined to comment on the channel layoffs other than to say that "a small number" were affected.

"The layoffs were not just channel layoffs. They were across the global sales and marketing organizations," Dickison said

Nonetheless, turnover in McAfee's channel is causing stress for partners because they must spend time forming relationships with new account managers, several sources told CRN on condition of anonymity. "It's hard for us when we have to continually restart our relationships," said a solution provider and McAfee partner who requested anonymity.

Now that the antivirus business is mature, McAfee wants partners to start focusing on the capabilities of its more complex products, such as ePolicy Orchestrator, Network Access Control, Foundstone, Preventsys, and Data Loss Prevention, said Dickison.

The creation of the mid-market segment will be especially beneficial to partners, according to Dickison. This team will focus on creating demand for McAfee solutions and help qualify leads that will be passed to partners. "We expect that partners will still be engaged in the antivirus business, but will leverage the newly created mid-market team to help qualify leads and ensure quicker time to sales," he said.

Although security risk management is a promising revenue generator, one solution provider said McAfee hasn't done a good enough job of articulating the ROI to channel partners.

"We're in a stand pat mode, waiting to see what happens. They are going to have to show me this time before I start doubling down on my bet," said the solution provider, who asked to remain anonymous.

This week at McAfee's worldwide sales meeting in Plano, Texas, executives are educating channel staff on the new business model and how to articulate its benefits to partners, Dickison noted. "We will internally continue to reach out to partners to make sure they understand our strategy and how they can profit from it," he said.

Inside McAfee, many channel staff who survived the first two rounds of layoffs aren't waiting to see if the strategy shift pays off. Several sources close to the company said for the past few months channel staff have been polishing their resumes and searching in earnest for alternative employment.

"There is absolutely zero confidence in job security right now," said one source, who requested anonymity.

Speculation from Wall Street that McAfee could be acquired has contributed to the confusion and uncertainty. At an all hands meeting in November, McAfee officials said while an acquisition wasn't imminent, if a big enough offer came in, they would accept it, sources close to the company told CRN.

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