10 Things Partners Can Expect From Intel Security This Year

A New Era For Intel Security

With a new strategy and leadership in place, Intel Security is now looking to make 2016 all about turning those changes into profitability for partners. That's what Richard Steranka, senior vice president of global channel operations, and Ken McCray, head of channel sales and operations for the Americas, said in a recent interview with CRN. The two executives said partners can expect to see changes around incentives, the program and the way that Intel Security interacts with its partners in the months to come -- changes they said should help quell concerns about the company's recent product portfolio changes and strategic direction. The channel chiefs gave CRN a preview into what's to come for partners. Here are 10 things partners can expect from the security vendor's channel strategy in 2016.

Continued Tweaks To Partner Program

In 2014, Intel Security rolled out an entirely revamped partner program that was designed to simplify the program and put an increased focus on managed services. Last summer, the security vendor built on those changes with updates to drive partner profitability and engagement. That's an enhancement cycle that partners can expect to see continue, Steranka told CRN. He said Intel Security is working alongside its partners to determine what further changes the vendor needs to make.

"We are still doing a lot of work examining the efficacy of our programs. … The security industry is shifting and morphing every day, with new players and threats. It's imperative that we really align with our partner community, build a new plan and review it through the course of the year," Steranka said.

The changes will likely build on the theme of simplicity and making it easier to do business and be profitable working with Intel Security, Steranka said. He said partners will likely see the changes rolled out in the second half of the year.

Focus On Partner Profitability

With enhancements planned to its partner program and a new strategy under its belt, the focus going forward is all about driving partner profitability, Steranka said.

"We are continuing to focus on partner profitability," Steranka said. In particular, Steranka said Intel Security is focused on rewarding further margin to partners who are using the company's full portfolio under its new strategy of protection, detection and correction.

Continued Emphasis On New Product Strategy

At its Focus 15 event in October, Intel Security took the wraps off of a new strategy, which positioned the vendor to focus on a full life cycle of security solutions, including protection, detection and correction. Since then, the company has made some changes to its portfolio, including the sale or end of life of more than a dozen products. Under that new strategy, Steranka said Intel Security will be incenting partners to sell across the entire portfolio. That's an area where partners still have room to grow, McCray said, but many are "moving in that direction."

Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity

In addition to partner profitability, Steranka said a lot of emphasis this year from Intel Security will be to continue driving simplicity in its programs and product lines. That simplicity is something that the vendor has been building into its partner program since it relaunched it in 2014. Doing that will make it easier for partners to do business with Intel Security, which will result in easier sales and better access to all the value available through the program, Steranka said.

"Making things easier is our priority," Steranka said.

More Industry Partnerships

Building the Security Connected architecture was all about making sure the Intel Security products could talk to each other in a way that enhanced security. Now, Steranka said Intel Security is building on that vision by investing in what it calls the Security Innovation Alliance, which looks to accelerate the interoperability and integration in its product line. He said Intel Security will be looking to make more announcements in this area in the second quarter.

"In the industry, working together more collaboratively with each other is good news for us all and for customers," Steranka said.

Changing Sales Force Automation Tools

One tangible way that Intel Security is looking to simplify the process for partners in the coming months is to change its sales force automation system. That change will happen in the middle of the year and will streamline the process for the company to interact with its partners, as well as pass on specific opportunities to them. Steranka said the company will also be working on other back-office improvements to streamline its process with partners.

More Focus On Managed Security Services

Intel Security has been driving a push toward managed security services, which is an area that "customers are asking for" from the company and its partners, Steranka said. That emphasis will continue going forward, he said, as leveraging security products to their best ability "immediately speaks to services." Those services, which he said maximize partner profits, include monitoring, incident response and professional services.

"We want to be an enabler to that," Steranka said.

Building Out Distributor Partnerships

Before taking the Americas channel chief role, McCray served as senior director of Americas distribution and national partners. McCray said he will be leveraging that expertise in his new role to help take a "very focused effort" on two-tier distribution, making sure the technical and training capabilities are in place for partners.

Looking To Solve Security Talent Gap

Another area where Intel Security plans to invest over the next year is in improving the cybersecurity talent shortage. McCray said there needs to be initiatives in place, starting with schools, to get more people into the profession.

"There's an opportunity for us, as Intel, to play a more active role in security and the cyber profession," McCray said.

Continued Focus On Partners

As he continues in his new role as Americas channel chief, McCray said his vision is to work closely with partners to bring substance to the company's strategic initiatives. Since starting in the role in January, McCray said his plate has been full with partner meetings to communicate the road map, work to get better aligned and get feedback on where Intel Security should take the next evolution of its product portfolio and partner program.

"It's great when we win, but it's better when we all win," McCray said of the importance of building a closer relationship with partners.