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Partners Express Concerns, Hope With New McAfee Channel Chief

Lisa Loe, who will take over as McAfee vice president of America channels, says she aims to 'reassess the channel model' as the company integrates technologies and partner programs with its acquisitions.

Loe, who joined McAfee Sept. 15 after nine years as senior director for strategic partner sales at Symantec, replaced Dave Dickison as McAfee vice president of North America channels.

"The health of the McAfee channel is very, very good," said Loe. "I see more opportunity than challenge. Because McAfee has such a growing presence in the large enteprise, the channel model is fairly mature there."

Loe said that Dickison, now vice president of channel operations, will be now be heading a comprehensive channel project that aims to "rebalance" the channel and reassess the company's go-to-market strategies. She said he would stay with the company.

Loe said that she left Symantec in April due to a company-wide layoff that she said essentially redirected the decision making process and allowed "fewer opportunities" for her position in the Cupertino-based company. "It's the right thing for Symantec to be doing. My business and their future direction were not in alignment," she said.

Looking forward, Loe said that one of the biggest projects she will undertake will be to transition McAfee into its numerous acquisitions as the company further integrates its technologies and partner programs, such as the recent acquisition of DLP vendor Reconnex, as well as the impending $465 million purchase of Secure Computing.

"Every time we buy a company, we need to reevaluate and reassess our channel models and channel policies and see if we have the right channel mix," she said. "We're hitting that equilibrium and as we grow, we continue to be relevant in the space, making sure our partners are mobilized to address the demands of the market."

She also said that the company will be looking to increase opportunity in the midmarket, specifically with solutions such as security policy management. "We address that market almost exclusively on the phone," said Loe. "We want to be closer to our midmarket customer. That definitely presents an opportunity for the channel."

She stopped short of saying that McAfee would change its channel model to one that is more direct. "We maintain a world class channel model," said Loe. "I've seen no evidence that we will take it direct. I haven't heard talk of it changing."

However, some partners expressed strong concerns about McAfee's channel health, contending that they hope that the new leadership would bring significant change in the channel, starting with the amount of turnover.

Greg Hanchin, principal for Colorado-based Dirsec Inc., said that the amount of new reps and personnel in the security company made it difficult to maintain relations and schedule events.

"It's trying to figure out who your rep of the quarter is," said Hanchin. "They can't seem to be consistent with channel marketing, channel funding and direct reps sticking around."

While Hanchin said that McAfee's product quality and staffing remained strong, his company would "recommend them keeping a consistent channel operations number," he added.

Another partner said that he had lost customers due to high product turnover, and hoped the new channel blood would soften the blow with better incentives for customers who he said were often "forced into product crossovers."

"I've lost 25 to 30 percent of my customers because of quick changes that forced them into bigger suites," said Mark Morrone, sales manager for Advanced Network Systems, of Charlottesville, Va. "The customers don't like to be forced into another product."

Other partners are more skeptical. One McAfee partner who asked to remain anonymous said that he had increasingly seen less channel support over the last several years.

"We have more success with competitive products," he said. "I feel that McAfee talks out of both sides of their mouth when it comes to supporting the channel."

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