Symantec Responds To Strategy Questions, Channel Optimistic

Don't expect major changes to the Symantec partner program in the short term, but the company indicated on Wednesday that it plans to have its own sales force focused on new customers, relying increasingly on the channel to serve its existing customer base. Channel partners told CRN on Thursday that they are cautiously optimistic.

Symantec issued a Partner FAQ attempting to answer some questions about pending channel changes associated with its strategy shift.

The Mountain View Calif.-based security giant announced its Symantec 4.0 strategy unveiling plans for a reboot as it enters its fourth decade. Symantec's plan starts with organizational changes, but also includes an overhauled product set, integrating point solutions into a more cohesive portfolio. The organizational and product restructuring will also impact the channel, with partner program changes being rolled out incrementally through 2013.

[Related: Symantec Partners Hope Change Means Solution-Selling Approach ]

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Symantec has potential to have a successful turnaround by focusing on mobile and cloud, areas where channel providers say they're seeing a lot of interest. Specialized partners help establish a long-term connection with customers, said Joshua Huston, founder and information security advisor at Amesbury, Mass.-based Exultium, a Symantec Silver partner.

Exultium became a Symantec partner shortly after the company acquired mobile application management vendor Nukona in March 2012. Symantec also acquired mobile device management vendor Odyssey Software earlier that same month, and a well-integrated offering could be a win for partners, Huston said. Symantec can also find opportunities through increased adoption of cloud computing, according to Huston, and it can establish itself as a data protection leader through its data loss prevention product, another technology area the company got into through its acquisition of DLP leader Vontu in 2007.

Channel partners need to be a big part of establishing and maintaining connections, Huston said. When a company becomes very large and has a huge product portfolio, changing the channel program has consequences, he said.

"If they will focus on acquiring new customers but still leverage the channel by passing the business through, it's usually a good thing," Huston said. "It can turn negative if they acquire new customers directly and sell to them directly."

NEXT: Less Optimism For Symantec, But Some See Potential For Growth

Bruce Jones, president and CEO of Ada, Okla.-based service provider WPS, Inc., became a Symantec partner in 2005 when it acquired storage management vendor Veritas Software. Jones, whose firm sells and manages Symantec Endpoint and Backup Exec for small businesses, said he's optimistic that interest in virtualization and cloud adoption is going to grow among small and midsize businesses in his area.

"Over the years, being involved with various vendors, I've learned that there's nothing that is going to be perfect," Jones said. "We advise our small business customers that if the Department of Defense or Bank of America can't protect themselves from infiltration, then it's unrealistic to think that little mom-and-pop businesses, spending $50 a node, can protect their [businesses]."

A spokesperson at a Symantec Platinum partner said the security giant has become less of a partner that is strategic to the firm's business. The spokesperson declined to let CRN use the firm's name but explained that its technical team is not thrilled with the security vendor's technology portfolio.

In its new strategy announcement, Symantec broke down its product offerings into three categories: productivity and protection, which consists of mobile workforce productivity, Norton protection and Norton Cloud; business security and compliance, which consists of an information security service (ISOC), identity content-aware security gateway and data center security; and business information and applications, which consists of a business continuity platform, integrated backup, cloud-based information management and object storage platform.

Symantec said trust services remain a key component of information security at Symantec.

The company said it was still ironing out the specifics of its go-to-market strategy. It will be simplified and rely heavily on partners to manage current customers, freeing up the Symantec sales force to focus on generating new business, the security vendor said.

Symantec said its revamped partner program will consist of lower-cost sales models, a new global sales and partner enablement organization, and expanded marketing. The company identified the following as customer segments: global and enterprise; industry verticals; and commercial, consumer and SMB.

"We make it too hard for our sales force; we have too many terms and conditions and so we make it hard for our customers and partners too," Symantec CEO Steve Bennett told Bloomberg on Thursday. "Part of making the company better and easier is to make it easier for our sales people to thrive and we are going over time to evolve them to focus 100% on new business, we're going to make our sales force hunters versus farmers and we're going to create a dedicated renewals organization because we think we are going to do a better job for our customers and free up the sales force."