McAfee Channel Chief Jumps To Websense

The San Diego-based Web security and Web filtering vendor is expected to announce Roberts' appointment Tuesday. Roberts resigned from McAfee early last week. At that time, Roberts told CRN that he is moving to another company where he will be running both channels and sales and will have a deeper compensation package.

“I am excited about this new opportunity and the much broader responsibilities I will have,” Roberts said last week. “At the same time, I am very excited with all that we have accomplished in channels at McAfee. My leaving is not a reflection of McAfee. It is a career move for me.”

Roberts joined McAfee in July 2004 and was largely responsible for overhauling McAfee’s channel program and helping the Santa Clara, Calif.-based security vendor move away from its traditional focus on direct sales to a channel-friendly company.

Roberts may well be taking on a similar task at Websense, which has had it share of channel problems, solution providers said.

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An executive of one top security solution provider, who requested anonymity, said Roberts has his work cut out for him given the channel conflict that he has experienced with Websense. "There is real discontent in the channel with Websense," the solution provider executive said. "There is a lot of competition with the direct-sales force and an arrogance. They truly don’t believe the channel is selling their product. They believe the channel is fulfilling their product."

The Websense channel angst comes with rival SurfControl making a full-court press to grab share. SurfControl recently held a partner advisory council where it sought partner input on how to accelerate channel sales.

"SurfControl is a very formidable competitor," said the solution providers executive. "If SurfControl takes the next six months and gets their channel into play, they have an opportunity to take the lead position from Websense. They have a better product and a better pricing structure. If the willingness is there, like I have experienced, they will gain favor in the channel very rapidly."

While at McAfee, Roberts was part of the team responsible for developing the vendor’s Security Alliance channel program and MAX partner portal, which gave partners access to prequalified leads, renewal data and order status information, and allowed partners to communicate directly with McAfee channel and sales teams.

Solution providers who worked with Roberts while he was at McAfee praised his ability to drive a channel resurgence. In fact, they said, Websense CEO Gene Hodges, who worked with Roberts at McAfee and drove a channel rebound in concert with him, is probably looking to make changes in Websense's go-to-market strategy to make the vendor more channel-friendly.

"Roberts executed well on the channel plan at McAfee," said one solution provider, who did not want to be identified. "Gene [Hodges] revamped the entire organizational structure there to support that effort. If Websense is going to have any kind of future with the channel, they are going to have to embrace the channel from the top down through all departments."

Additional reporting by STEVEN BURKE and KEVIN McLAUGHLIN