Symantec Channel Chief To Partners: 'Stay The Course'

Symantec partners will not regret sticking with the company while it separates into two separate businesses, according to the head of channel operations in North America. Rick Kramer, vice president of North America Channel Sales, told CRN that executives are working to ensure that the investments made by partners into the channel program remain intact.

The Symantec Partner Program, which emphasizes principal and expert product competencies, is flexible enough to stand on its own once Symantec splits into separate security and information management businesses, Kramer said in an interview with CRN. A 15-year veteran at Symantec, Kramer said the company is standing by its channel program through the end of 2015 and continues to validate partners that show strong skills in more than a dozen competency areas.

"We’ve built in rebates and incentives that are really driven towards long-term customer satisfaction, and there's growth rebates built into the program, too, to make sure our partners are rewarded increasingly as they advance through the program," he said.

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Hundreds of Symantec partners attended the Symantec Partner Engage event in Phoenix last month to hear how they might be impacted when the company splits into two separate businesses. When the transition is completed in December 2015, the Symantec business will retain the enterprise security products portfolio and also include the Symantec Altiris client management suite. Some security industry analysts and longtime partners told CRN to expect more changes ahead and indicated that, once split, Symantec could be an acquisition target.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company also appointed two new executives to spearhead product development and technology alliances for its security business. Balaji Yelamanchili, an industry veteran who was most recently overseeing Oracle analytics and performance management products, was named executive vice president and general manager of Enterprise Security Products. Jeff Sheel, who was at FireEye where he served as vice president of business development, global services and cloud solutions, became Symantec's senior vice president of corporate development, alliances and strategy.

The revised partner program was put into full effect on Oct. 6, with a focus on Symantec competency levels. Newly added incentives and programs are designed to drive growth with Symantec, Kramer told CRN. Symantec has added a new Services Expert competency that is aimed at partners that can be validated on having professional services throughout the company's product portfolio.

Partners told CRN that the company has made no promises of what would happen when the separation is complete. Kramer said he did not know if he would still be running a channel program as part of the security or data management business next year.

"I look at both businesses and see tremendous opportunity in both companies," Kramer said. "I don't know if my role will be on one side or the other, but I'm excited about wherever I land in the future."

The focus on competencies have made the Symantec partner program more rigid, not flexible, said David Sockol, president and CEO of security consulting firm Emagined Security, a Symantec partner. Some partners can be experts on delivery but not necessarily have huge sales in a product, he said. Clients also typically prefer to use a different partner to service a product, he said.

"The jury is out because nobody really knows what is going to come down the pipe once the two companies are separated," Sockol said. "As the companies divide, I suspect we will see more changes to the program to help incent the behaviors that they want from the partners."

NEXT: Financial Incentives, Financial Portal Being Launched

Kramer said the company also has added financial incentives to reward committed partners. A new financial portal will be launched later this month, enabling companies to track renewals performance, rebates and market development funds. A new opportunity registration rebate is being bumped up to 20 percent under the new program and a renewals performance rebate rewards customer retention with a 2 percent rebate on total business.

Partners also can earn up to an 8 percent rebate by meeting quarterly and annual growth targets. A margin-builder program also was added to provide discounts for new deals associated with backup and endpoint security among small and midsize businesses.

Symantec also is rolling out custom intelligence reports, giving partners access to buying behaviors associated with their target clients. A new partner locator also is being overhauled to provide potential customers a way to search the database of partners based on the new competencies and location.

"Our global strategy hasn't really changed much," Kramer said. "We're at the execution stage now, and our partners are very involved in our go-to-market strategy and to drive our business forward."

Symantec overhauled the channel program to reduce the myriad incentives and requirements that remained following its spate of acquisitions over the last decade.

The Symantec Partner Program rewards partners with a "principal" competency designation, with a 10 percent margin benefit on opportunity registration. Advanced accreditation earns a partner an "expert" competency status, with rewards up to a 20 percent margin for registered opportunities.

Partners that achieve validation in an expert competency must meet a $300,000 annual revenue requirement, pass an evaluation, provide evidence of customer satisfaction, and demonstrate confidence in delivering products to a technical evaluation review board. Symantec also is closely monitoring expert partners. Partners obtaining principal status have a minimal revenue threshold of $10,000 annually.