Symantec Releases Details On Global Channel Strategy

Symantec has extended its strategy of trimming underperforming partners in the United States. The security vendor has a plan to rely more heavily on a smaller pool of partners globally that can carry out more complex projects and implement a broader set of the company's portfolio.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company is currently rolling out its Global Channel Strategy, which was first announced in November. In a blog post expected today, Garrett Jones, vice president of Symantec's global channel operations, said the company's program will reward partners in areas where they are most capable. Under the new strategy, the vendor will spend more on financial benefits for the channel than ever before, Jones said.

"As we consider the breadth of our portfolio, we need partners who are focused on each type of customer across all levels of complexity," Jones said. "We need partners that understand and can solve the needs of an SMB just as much as we need partners with deep relationships in the enterprise space to help with more complex solutions."

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As part of the plan, the company unveiled Symantec Competencies, a framework designed to align a partner's core competencies with specific Symantec products and the customers requesting them. Partners must meet minimum performance standards to gain benefits under the framework, and they will be rewarded based on their demonstration of commitment to Symantec, Jones said.

"Once partners have obtained the capabilities for a given competency, many of the benefits defined in the program will become available," Jones said.

To reduce disruption in the channel, Symantec has established a transition period while it implements the new program. Jones pledged to maintain current partner membership status and associated benefits while the program is being implemented. Jones said as part of Symantec's global strategy, it is giving key partners access to the market intelligence it uses for internal business planning. Investments also are being made to boost consulting and technical support.

Symantec has added a performance rebate to its Opportunity Registration program to foster growth. Executives also have a pool of development funds to invest in its core partners. In the U.S., Symantec has funded sales and technical head count, demo centers and lead-generation activities at some of the biggest systems integrators. Multimillion-dollar investments had been made in 10 of the largest security solution providers in the country, including Accuvant, FishNet, Novacoast and CDI. The vendor also is relying on a core group of about 80 to 100 regional partners as part of its go-to-market strategy.

NEXT: Partners Even More Key To Growth, Say Symantec Executives

Symantec CEO Steve Bennett is in his second year overseeing a product overhaul and go-to-market strategy changes called Symantec 4.0. Ninety percent of the sales force was impacted by the changes, which included employee layoffs. In addition to cloud security and mobility, the company hopes to fuel more sales of its data loss prevention and its Norton endpoint security line for businesses and shore up stalled sales of its backup and recovery products.

Bennett recently told financial analysts to expect 2014 to be another year of transition. The company is trying to drive 5 percent organic growth and 30 percent operating margins during the transformation, said Symantec Channel Chief John Eldh in an interview with CRN. To do that, the company is trying to get focused on a set of partners that it believes have the technical capability and competencies to help the company bring value to customers and help fuel sales growth.

"The channel and our partners are at the epicenter of everything we're doing inside Symantec as part of the transformation," Eldh said. "Our partner community is in many cases closer to the end user, has better relationships and better knowledge of the technical environment than we do."

Partners that believe they can carry out broader projects with Symantec are praising Symantec's strategy and acknowledge they stand to gain the most from the changes. For partners that chose to engage with the Symantec sales reps in the field, it has been a collaborative process, said Jason Livingston, of Bloomington, Minn.-based Intuitive Technology Group, a Symantec partner. There may be thousands of partners in the channel, but those who have demonstrated a commitment to gaining training and selling Symantec products will be rewarded, Livingston said.

"It's been a change of philosophy for some sales reps on Symantec's side as well," Livingston said. "If you are used to owning the relationship and you now have to move to more of a channel-led model, that is a real change for a lot of people."

Other partners have left Symantec following what they perceive as a repeated "24 month cycles of uncertainty and change." The company is trying to take the shortest path of getting itself equitable again, said Michael Knight, chief technology officer of Greenville, S.C.-based Encore Technology Group. Knight said his firm discontinued its partnership with Symantec and AVG after seeing more nimble competitors with strong products in both storage and security that had a channel focus.

"They've got more than a hike up Mount Everest to get back up to what I would consider a turnaround," Knight said of Symantec. "They've been known for getting products that were good like Altiris and making them so awfully bloated that people just stopped using it and moved to a different product line."