Partners Surprised But Hopeful At Symantec Channel Chief's Resignation

Sources say that Parrish announced her resignation Thursday afternoon from Symantec to take a position with storage vendor NetApp. Parrish will remain with Symantec through the end of October.

Many partners say that that Parrish will be missed once she leaves her post at the company. "She'll be an excellent asset for NetApp, and possibly the boost they've been looking for since they lost their channel chief," said Darrel Bowman, CEO of, based in Tacoma, Wash. "It's going to be hard to fill those shoes."

NetApp declined to discuss the possibility of Parrish joining that company. However the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based storage company said in a statement e-mailed to ChannelWeb that Pat Linehan, SVP of worldwide sales, and Eric Mann, SVP of Americas sales, are currently heading channel efforts while the company "actively pursues another strong channel leader."

Altogether, Parrish served as Symantec's channel leader for three years, taking over channel management in 2005 for former channel chief Allyson Seelinger. Prior to her position as channel chief, Parrish served as the Cupertino-based company's vice president of enterprise, midmarket and channel marketing.

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Before coming to Symantec in 2002, Parrish's 23-year-history in the channel also included a position with Veritas as vice president of the Americas field and channel marketing. When Symantec eventually acquired the storage giant in 2005, Parrish played an integral role in the integration of the two channel programs.

Partners say that Parrish faced the enormous undertaking of uniting the two programs with a positive attitude coupled with determination to keep the channel strong.

"It's not easy doing that. At the time she was doing an awful lot of work -- to merge all the programs is no easy task. For the most part she did that very well," said Kevin McCann, vice president of sales for Continental Resources, a Bedford, Mass.-based solution provider, adding, "She cleaned up a lot of good programs -- [her resignation] was kind of a surprise."

Meanwhile, not every partner will feel, or notice, her absence. Jack Dawson, executive vice president and CTO of Reno, Nev.-based IQ Systems, said that his company never hears from their Symantec sales reps, let alone the company's channel chief.

"We don't ever see anybody or hear from anybody at Symantec. We rarely have any partner who comes and sees us," said Dawson. "I couldn't even tell you who our representative was."

Parrish told ChannelWeb that she would not be giving interviews regarding her resignation from Symantec. However, in a Sept. 24 interview, Parrish delineated some of the problems that plagued the security company prior to her resignation.

"Ease of doing business -- big, big issue for us over the years and one that we've worked really hard on," said Parrish. "Whether it's product quality or tech support or licensing complexity, we're continuing to work through that process. Our work will never be done."

While respected in the industry, Parrish has also seen criticism intensify from channel partners with regards to her channel management and strategy. For many partners, the downward spiral of Symantec's channel program began with the acquisition of Veritas.

The channel problems further escalated with numerous structural and integration issues when Symantec embarked on an ambitious upgrade to merge IT infrastructure from both companies around Oracle's ERP platform in November 2006.

The combined company suffered most in the area of support, but was also inundated with purchasing and licensing problems after the company introduced new buying programs and changed its software licensing agreements.

"I think what happened that got us to the point we are now with the level of unhappiness is coming out of the ERP merger," said Parrish, in a recent interview. "It was a combination of an overwhelming amount of change. In retrospect we should not have brought all that change to the market at once. Even if it all worked perfectly, it still would have been too much."

In recent months, the Symantec channel came under a firestorm of criticism from partners after Chief Operating Officer Enrique Salem announced to a group of Wall Street analysts that the company planned to allow the top 900 customers to conduct sales direct.

Partners also complained that the company was issuing unsolicited software licensing renewal calls to their customers prior to expiration. Many of the partners' criticisms were reflected by Symantec's continually falling Everything Channel Annual Report Card scores, which were lowest in areas of Partner Program and Support.

Mark Teter, CTO of Advanced Systems Group, a Denver-based solution provider, said he has seen a steady change at Symantec since its acquisition of Veritas.

"When it acquired Veritas, the focus was on data management. It remained the focus for a few years. Now they're back to focusing more on data security, or information security," he said.

Teter noted that Parrish's departure seems to be part of a steady stream of attrition by long-standing Symantec reps and systems engineers.

"Of all the top execs from Veritas who landed at Symantec, most have already gone," he said, adding, "A lot is not so much their leaving Symantec as much is they are looking to do what they want to do, maybe get out of this industry, or work at smaller companies. They're not leaving because of politics."

Meanwhile Bowman said that Parrish's resignation could be indicative of larger systemic problems within the company, and expressed hope that Symantec would find ways to strengthen the channel and regain trust within the partner community.

"Pre-Veritas, they had a completely different support model that was easy to access and very channel friendly," he said. "The choices they make in the new selection and the capabilities or direction that they give that new person are to embolden the channel and be an evangelist for Symantec. If they're not going to let the channel be their evangelist, then they're missing the boat."

Joseph F. Kovar contributed to this article.