Symantec To Channel: Get Specialized

Symantec is calling all partners with a suggestion: Get specialized.

That was the overriding message delivered Tuesday after Symantec announced a series of impending channel enhancements, which among other things, included a spate of new specializations on the storage side.

Executives say that the company increasingly will focus on, and direct its partners to, becoming specialized in order to distinguish themselves in the marketplace and increase their competitive margins.

"We're going to continue to expand our product line. What we're really asking our partners to do is step up and become specialized," said Randy Cochran, Symantec vice president of North American channel sales. " This is where we're headed. We're asking all of the partners don't wait until the end of the year. Get specialized now."

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Cochran said that the company is calling for partners to have niche and specialized expertise to meet the demands of changing customer needs and threat environment.

'The point is, the customers need help and they need expertise. It's no longer just an AV game. You have to be deep in a lot of these technologies," he said.

Currently, Symantec offers specializations in endpoint management, SMB, Data Loss Prevention (DLP), foundational enterprise security and IT Compliance.

Cochran said that down the road, the company will offer more specializations in archiving and discovery, tentatively slated for release next month, as well as storage management, data protection and high availability -- which will be available before the end of the calendar year.

Next: Partners Want Access Resources

Meanwhile, as partners further invest in the company by becoming specialized, executives said that Symantec would provide them with increased access to resources and enablement tools in the form of financial incentives, sales support and technical resources, as well as other exclusive benefits.

Cochran said that all specializations would be available to metallic partners -- silver, gold and platinum -- which he said constituted the majority of the company's channel base. Partners could become specialized on their own schedules via computer-based training, at no additional cost, he said, adding that he anticipated that most partners would specialize in at least one and "preferably two."

"It's time well spent and an investment worth making," he said.

And solution providers, especially those who have already invested in specializations, expressed that they are happy that Symantec is finally recognizing their expertise. "The move, combined with the move away from consulting, is going to bring a huge amount of value to the partner," said David Sockel, CEO of Emagined Security, based in Santa Clara, Calif.

Sockel said that the planned enhancements around specializations represented an 180-degree about-face for Symantec, adding that in the past he had become specialized but wasn't rewarded for his effort. Up until recently, Sockel said that specializations only served to position him to be in direct competition with the company, due to the fact that Symantec also had jurisdiction over the majority of its consulting services business.

"In fact looking backwards, in the past, it didn't help us all that much. And we put in all that effort. Now they're turning this around and we see all the value going forward," Sockel said.

However, other partners are wary of impending enhancements due to negative past experiences with Symantec's policies around its specializations.

One California-based solution provider said that he had reason to be skeptical when after he was told by Symantec that he had met all requirements as an Altiris partner but was unexpectedly ejected from the program a few months later. He said that Symantec should repair some of the systemic flaws in any new channel programs or added specializations, and clearly define the rules of engagement.

The solution provider added that thus far, no one alerted him to the fact that Symantec was planning channel enhancements that included impending specializations, despite the fact that he held a Silver partner status and was the region's most highly certified partner.

"Cisco, MS and HP for comparison all have very predictable, consistent specialization programs, where the rules of play are clearly defined, and then adhered to by both the vendor and their reseller partners," the solution provider said. "If and when Symantec fixes the mess they already have, then yes, I would be very interested in pursuing these l specializations and yes, it will offer a key advantage over competitors who have not yet make these investments."