New McAfee Channel Chief Aims To Tighten Channel Relations

Yes, he plans on growing the channel program. "The key is to grow intelligently. How do we leverage what we have?" Quintero said.

And part of that growth strategy will also entail improving communication and mending fences with channel partners, he acknowledged.

For now, the plan of attack consists of extensive meetings with four groups, Quintero said: channel partners, industry experts, customers and sales channels, in order to establish lines of communication, elicit constructive feedback, and repair relations with staff and partners.

"I have a little black book, and most of those pages are full," he said.

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However, Quintero acknowledged that the road might not be easy. In recent years, McAfee channel partners have complained about abandonment from channel leaders, sporadic channel field representation, revolving staffs, inconsistent policies, and lack of channel strategy and focus.

Meanwhile, Quintero is filling a position that had been vacated for months by his predecessors. Dave Dickison, who once headed the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company's North America channels, departed McAfee suddenly in January, although the company declined to confirm whether he was terminated or voluntarily stepped down.

Dickison had been replaced in September 2008 by Lisa Loe, who took over his role of vice president of North America channel operations. Dickison was then reassigned to a nebulous role with the aim of "rebalancing the channel" -- a move that many partners said indicated he might be on his way out. However, Loe also exited the company under mysterious circumstances in December 2008 -- just three months after she was hired.

Since then, partners said that the holes left by Dickison's and Loe's absences indicated a larger trend of structural instability and attrition at McAfee, which partners said ultimately served to undermine confidence in the security giant.

Quintero acknowledged partners' dissatisfaction and reaffirmed plans going forward to re-establish long-term relationships with the channel.

"This is a channel company from the CEO all the way down. We're committed to the channel," he said. "(Partners) want clarity and they want consistency. We're making sure that this is the DNA around the structure of what we do today. We've grown very fast; maybe we haven't had time to think about some of these things."

Specifically, Quintero said that McAfee was investing heavily in enablement tools and technologies, slated to be announced some time during the company's second half, which would allow partners to more effectively communicate with, and receive support, from McAfee.

Quintero also said that McAfee planned to bring more innovation to the table to keep partners competitive and profitable, leveraging white-listing and network security technologies gained through acquisitions of SolidCore and Secure Computing, respectively. Those technologies would continue to be bundled in Web security and data loss prevention suites down the road, he said.

Other technologies not included in McAfee's portfolio, such as storage, will continue to be leveraged from numerous existing cross-vendor alliances, which will then be integrated into McAfee's current consoles and other products.

"It's bringing more of that innovation and integration into the channel," Quintero said. "Taking the endpoint and interlocking that with the network. That's where we have the advantage."

In addition, Quintero said that he wanted to develop and focus on deal-registration programs for partners. "We should be able to stick with (a deal) to the end so they can make money," he added.

Above all, Quintero said he plans to focus on the company's core strengths with additional research and development. Critics have said that McAfee's biggest competitor, Symantec, which acquired storage giant Veritas in 2005, has a leg up in both the security and storage arenas with its ability to incorporate both technologies into its security suites.

But Quintero maintains that, as a company entirely dedicated to security, McAfee can funnel all of its time and resources to its key objective, which he contends, makes the company uniquely equipped to deal with a constantly evolving barrage of sophisticated security threats. And he says that hard focus on security will not waiver.

"The key is focus. We focus strictly on security. We're the largest dedicated security-focused security company out there," he said. "The more broad you want to be around security, the less effective you will be."