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Look for New Channel Approach from Symantec

The channel will play a more central role for Symantec Corp. under a program rolling out next year.

Symantec telegraphed some of the changes on Wednesday at its Symantec Partner Engage event in Scottsdale, Ariz. 

In a pre-briefing, Garrett Jones, a Symantec veteran who became vice president for global channel operations this spring, said the changes stemmed from Symantec 4.0, the new strategy under CEO Steve Bennett, who is the company's fourth CEO (thus 4.0). The strategy developed out of Bennett's review of the company after taking over as CEO in 2012. 

Symantec is the sum of a lot of acquisitions with hundreds of products in dozens of areas. Previous channel efforts pushed partners to represent as many of the company's products as possible.

"Before to climb tiers, you would have sell very broadly across our portfolio," Jones said. "We had 20 programs, even more than 20. Now we've consolidated those down to one overarching framework."

Symantec is also recognizing that partners don't want to operate in multiple Symantec programs; they want to operate in one Symantec program. Moreover, if they're successful as security partners, for example, Symantec doesn't want its incentives to force them to go into adjacent areas, such as backup, to access program benefits like higher margins.

"Our [old] programs were designed more as a one-size-fits-all. It wasn't designed so that partners can go deep in one area and be successful and be rewarded for it. Before, [it was] sell everything in a peanut-butter approach," Jones said.

Symantec isn't ready to go public with specifics of the new channel program yet. Jones said the company has taken its roughly 150-point solutions and is moving toward a roadmap for partners with 10 integrated offerings.

"What we're hoping to do is really clarify the Symantec portfolio," Jones said. While details will be available later, examples of integrated offering areas would include things like user productivity, information security, information management and data-loss prevention, he said.

Meanwhile, Symantec is already tinkering with its indirect-direct sales mix and started implementing some changes in July. Among the changes, Symantec is:

  • reducing the number of named accounts that Symantec sells to directly,
  • expanding the number of accounts in the 100-percent-channel-led commercial space,
  • investing in the inside sales organization to better support the channel,
  • clarifying the rules of engagement for Symantec's sales teams and
  • adjusting compensation internally to incentivize Symantec sellers to engage with partners.

Jones said Bennett's review found that Symantec's best bet is to rely more on channel partners.

"We [have] clear evidence that our sales and marketing costs were out of line with where we wanted to be and we weren't really getting return on investment," Jones said. "We need to effectively embrace channel and give them opportunity. We need to let them lead."

Posted by Scott Bekker on November 13, 2013