When Computer Associates' (CA's) top channel chief admits to making mistakes in the past, you know that the world's fourth-largest software vendor is starting to try to put its turbulent history behind it.
It was the first CA World for two years where the shadow of Texan billionaire Sam Wylie's attempts to take over the company weren't hanging over proceedings, and this allowed it to focus on more important issues.
The main message of the event, held at the Mandalay Bay convention centre in Las Vegas, was that the channel would play a pivotal role in CA's future success.
CA unveiled nine new products, including new features and application support for its data protection software, BrightStor ARCserve Backup; two new products under its eTrust brand, the Security Command Center (SCC) and Vulnerability Manager; and its asset management tool, codenamed Sonar.
However, the biggest announcement was CA's Partner Profitability Programme. The programme was initially targeted at North America; a similar version of it is now slated to be launched in the UK around September.
"We did take our eye off the ball when it came to the channel and our competition, but the reason we launched this partner programme is to increase our market share in storage, security and infrastructure. We can't be successful in our goals without the channel," said George Kafkarkou, senior vice president of worldwide channel operations at CA.
Under the programme, partners are divided into four groups based on specific business models: Affiliate, Premier, ISV and OEM. The programme focuses on four main elements.
The first, training and certification, will provide a mixture of webcasts, hands-on technical certification courses and online sales certification.
Second, CA will be providing unlimited, free 24-hour phone support to Premier partners, OEMs and ISVs. Affiliate partners will be given normal working-hours phone support.
Third, lead generation will see contracts passed to partners via a recently developed internet-based system.
CA already operates its 'channel-preferred' model in its security and storage areas, launched at CA World last year, but the profitability programme will operate in addition to that.
Finally, partners will be offered more rebates. Provided VARs generate $35,000 per quarter with CA, they will be able to earn up to eight per cent on BrightStor and AllFusion products and up to 15 per cent on eTrust products.
Dave Ball, European indirect marketing director at CA, explained that after the US the UK would follow, and then the rest of Europe.
"However, we still have legality and systems issues, because Europe is totally different to the States, and we wanted to get it exactly right for all of our partners rather than rush the worldwide launch," he said.
Partners at the conference seemed confident about the programme.
Bhavesh Patel, commercial director at broadline distributor Ingram Micro, said: "This is a good opportunity for resellers to make more margin, but we have to make sure the messaging is right to really get the benefits across to our resellers. It is the job of both CA and distribution partners to get this message across."
John Campbell, business manager for storage solutions at Computer 2000, added: "We are used to working with vendors to maximise the benefit of any new programme that can generate new business.
"The programme has four strong elements and, once the wrinkles have been ironed out, I'm sure it will be embraced by everybody in the channel."
Clive Longbottom, service director at Quocirca, indicated that CA still had some work to do, but that the future looked positive.
"CA needed to change its approach to the channel because it was regarded as predatory, mean and inflexible," he said. "The new approach is very promising."
Longbottom added that CA still had to work on its product messaging, but claimed it was down to the channel to help the vendor out on this issue.
"The messaging needs to be pushed through the channel in a manner that is understandable to end-users. With extra funds and leads available through CA itself, this should be feasible," he said.
"With Sanjay [Kumar, chief executive] running things, CA's portfolio is looking stronger than ever. The message is poor, but that's fixable."
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