Check Point Channel Chief Makes A Pledge

Bar-Lev, vice president of field operations and technical services at Check Point, took the helm of the Israel-based security vendor's channel program in July after Kevin Maloney left for an executive position at Network General.

The top channel role will have its challenges, though, as Bar-Lev faces simmering discontent in Check Point's partner ranks.

Bar-Lev says he's aware that it hasn't been easy to do business with Check Point lately and says he is committed to improving channel relationships. To that end, Check Point has assigned sales reps to certain partners within their territory as part of an effort to focus more on specific areas as opposed to broad geographies, said Bar-Lev.

Partner reaction to this move has been positive.

Sponsored post

"It's good that Check Point focused its sales because they'll be able to get partners to focus on putting a Check Point-centric plan in place and driving that," said Jeff Mullarkey, CEO of Chicago-based solution provider RKON. "This will increase the accountability of partners to commit to a plan and know their focus and grow their business."

Some partners also say the approval cycles and reimbursement for marketing programs have become complicated and time-consuming.

"It's been a moving target in terms of what's acceptable and what's not. Not only does it take too long to get things approved, the guidelines are pretty restrictive. It seems like every approval cycle is a one-off," said one solution provider who asked not to be named.

Check Point gives partners a generous budget for marketing programs, but it's always a one-off approval, said another source. "The problem with this is you can't plan in advance and map a schedule out. It's one negative aspect of a very positive channel program," the source said.

Bar-Lev says he's aware of the issue and recently solicited feedback from Check Point's North American partners to determine what changes need to be made, adding that something will be announced soon.

One improvement will come in the form of a well- defined service level agreement for both approvals and claims.

"With a well-defined SLA, Check Point will be able to build a system that allows partners to enter requests in a straightforward manner while also seeing the guidelines," Bar-Lev said.

"I like the idea of a predefined SLA—it puts everything on the table and holds people accountable," said Bill Calderwood, president of The Root Group, a Boulder, Colo.-based solution provider. "The fact that they recognize this as an issue and are willing to step up with an SLA makes Check Point unique in the marketplace."

Check Point's recent price hike for maintenance renewals is another area of concern for partners. Sources told CRN that Check Point's new program for simplifying renewals has actually resulted in higher costs for end users. "The reality is that although it's simpler to do renewals, it's also more expensive," said one solution provider who asked not to be named.

Check Point previously charged partners an annual maintenance fee based on a percentage of the product list price, but that fee is now based on the total price of the products partners have installed at the customer's location, the solution provider added.

Solution providers also told CRN they'd like to see Check Point give customers the option of a reduced service level at a lower price.

Bar-Lev said he's not aware of any partners who've asked for this option. "The only thing I am considering," he said, "is building the best way to incorporate support from the vendor and the channel to provide more benefits to end users."

Bar-Lev, who is responsible for worldwide sales, partner programs, international marketing as well as the technical services organization, has spent the past few months familiarizing himself with Check Point's channel partners and plans on being a visible presence.

"I'm not going to be behind the scenes. I've already been interacting with as many partners as I can," he said.

However, one solution provider doesn't expect Check Point to place much emphasis on promoting Bar-Lev as the public face of its channel program.

"They haven't personified the position of channel chief," said the solution provider, who requested anonymity. "The question is, if the goal is just to optimize the channel financially, you don't need a figurehead channel chief and a big salary to do that."