Symantec Set To Unveil 'Big Bets' Global Partner Program

Symantec is set to roll out a multi-tiered global partner program that includes elements of a new "Big Bets" partner pilot program under which the company has invested heavily in an elite group of system integrators, CRN has learned.

The global partner program rollout comes on the heels of a pilot program under which Symantec has made multimillion-dollar investments in 10 of the largest security solution providers in the country, including Accuvant, FishNet, Novacoast and CDI, CRN has learned.

The investment in partners in the Big Bets tier includes funds for sales and technical headcount, demo centers, and lead generation activities, said Symantec Channel Chief John Eldh, in an interview with CRN.

[Related: Expect 2014 To Be Another Transition Year For Symantec, Says CEO ]

Sponsored post

Eldh confirmed details of the Big Bets program and the imminent rollout of the global partner program. The company declined to name the other partners in the newly created elite tier.

Symantec's aim with the global partner program is to get more partners to step up under the tiered partner program to establish themselves at the high-end where the "strategic benefits are akin to the current Big Bets pilot run," Eldh told CRN.

Symantec sales reps receive as much as a 10 percent-commission uplift for deals that involve partners in the Big Bets tier. The incentive plan is also being extended to other partners in a newly established Focused tier consisting of 80 to 100 regional VARs that have expertise in specific product areas and can carry out broader technology implementations.

The goal of the Big Bets program and the new partner program is to get the field to go first to the partner and drive exponential growth to deliver a mutli-fold return for Symantec, Eldh said. It is about driving engagement, opportunity planning, deal planning, territory planning, pipeline and demand generation that the company has never seen before, Eldh said.

"We're trying to get focused on a set of partners that we believe have the technical capability and competencies to help us best delight the customer base and also has the scale and reach to help us all grow," Eldh said. "This does not mean that we are eliminating, alienating or not working with our whole partner ecosystem. Everybody still has the ability to sell the solutions."

Symantec is expecting a 10- to 20-fold return on its strategic investment in those 10 Big Bet partners and has already seen explosive sales growth from the Symantec investments under the pilot program, said Eldh.

The Symantec investment in partners in the Big Bets tier is significant, providing, co-marketing material, technical sales assistance, training and additional headcount, said Dan Thormodsgaard, vice president of solutions architecture at FishNet Security.

"We see this as an opportunity and I think it's a win-win on both sides," Thormodsgaard said. "Symantec is dedicating resources, allocating money and investing heavily in the partners."

NEXT: Partners Voice Mixture Of Optimism, Skepticism In Plan

Partners are expected to be briefed on details of the newly established program as early as next week. Those who were aware of the ongoing pilot program told CRN they are genuinely enthusiastic about Symantec's investment in the channel. Partners that have invested in certifications and are seeing deals all the way through should get rewarded over those partners that are purely reselling software, David Sockol, president and CEO of San Carlos, Calif.-based Emagined Security.

"I think Symantec can bring good things to the table and once we all have the details, we'll get on board with the message," Sockol said. "We'll bring much more value to the Symantec name when the details are in place than walking around and saying Symantec's changing."

Other solution providers voiced skepticism to the new approach. Symantec needs to execute the program properly and explain all the metrics behind the program, said Ron Schoenherr, CEO of Brighton, Mich.-based Xcend Group Inc., a longtime Platinum-level partner that came under the Symantec umbrella following the acquisition of Altiris client management suite.

"I think their heart is in the right place, but in my 20 years in the industry, I've never seen a field sales organization that is incented to drive business through one partner over another," Schoenherr said. "I don’t necessarily know what the impact to our business will be."

Symantec has added partner account managers (PAMs) that seem to be much more engaged with partners with potential opportunities, said Schoenherr. Xcend has about a dozen certified engineers, and Schoenherr said Xcend has been successfully driving net new license revenue to Symantec, but his company wasn't selected to be in the elevated tier.

Internally, Symantec is evaluating partners for competency in specific technology areas and will increasingly rely on those that can deliver Symantec products as part of integrated projects. "Partners will be rewarded for making investments that build skills that support the delivery of comprehensive solutions and improve customer satisfaction," said Symantec CEO Steve Bennett in a call with financial analysts this week.

Jason Livingston, CEO of Bloomington, Minn.-based Intuitive Technology Group, a Symantec Platinum-level partner, said his firm is enthusiastic about the plans. Livingston said that the changes may be difficult for some partners that are slow to embrace field sales reps. Those that have been established in the channel and have invested in certified staff should be rewarded under the program, Livingston said.

"In the past, the inside sales teams were more about answering the phone if someone calls, and now they are transitioning much more into doing sales and following leads," Livingston said. "Once they acquire the leads, they are pulling in specific partners and ones with certifications in relative areas to assist with leads."

NEXT: Encouraging Larger, Integrated Partner Relationships

Bennett, who took the helm at Symantec 18 months ago, unveiled the new Symantec strategy last year. The restructuring was aimed at eliminating redundant management positions and focused on more tightly integrating various point products. He said 2014 will be another major transition year for the company.

A new Symantec coverage model impacts more than 90 percent of the company's direct sales force. The sales organization was changed to focus on new business with a specialization in selling either information management or information security. In addition, Symantec created a centrally managed renewals team.

"Any channel initiative creating some sort of incentive compensation program to encourage larger more integrated relationships with partners is a great idea philosophically," said Ric Hughes, CEO of Hunt Valley, Md.-based System Alliance Inc. "They took the entire Symantec field sales organization and made dramatic changes to their coverage models, geography and size of accounts, and it's all going to take time to iron out."

Alex Moss, managing partner of Conventus, said his consultancy, which works with large, high-profile retailers and other enterprises, was not selected to the elevated Big Bet-tier level, but added his firm is confident that over time it will gain more visibility. All the pieces are in place to provide post-sale credibility into the presales environment, Moss said. From a growth standpoint, Symantec license growth in the last eight months has tripled, he said.

"I'm optimistic the new model will work," Moss said, noting that he has hired a marketing specialist to help raise Conventus' visibility within Symantec. "People that resell Symantec software can still resell it and make margin, and people investing in selling full solutions in helping solve problems will be rewarded for their role as well."