Major changes are afoot in Symantec’s channel, as the security and storage behemoth throws more weight behind partners with specialist skills.
As reported by CRN, Symantec is slowly unravelling its Platinum, Gold and Silver setup in favour of a ‘solution specialist’ approach.
Partners who want to get ahead must beef up their skills in specific technologies, or risk losing the vendor’s support.
Symantec’s current three-tier programme is based on a sliding scale of revenue thresholds. UK Platinum partners, for instance, must shift more than $2m of Symantec products a year, with Gold partners required to turn over $250,000. Partners must also have a set number of accredited sales and technical staff.
Over the coming 12 months, Symantec will gradually remove the rewards tied into that system and drop them into the new solution-based programmes.
Jason Ellis, vice president of EMEA channels and midmarket at Symantec, said partners with niche skills would profit from the overhaul.
“The partner programme at the moment is quite open,” he said. “It does not convey the expertise resellers have. We need to focus on slightly fewer partners on certain solutions.”
All systems go
Symantec will begin the transition to the new programme in EMEA in its current fiscal year, with the global rollout set for next year.
Granular details of the new system are yet to be revealed, but specialisms have already been earmarked for endpoint management, data leakage prevention and IT compliance. There will be an additional specialism for SME and there are also plans to bring out a licensing programme for volume players.
Each specialism will contain a higher tier dubbed the Master for those demonstrating the highest level of skill.
And like the Master accreditation Cisco unveiled in 2006, only a small number of partners will make the grade, Ellis indicated.
“The partners that are going to be Masters are already known to us,” Ellis said.
Upping the game
Most resellers will be known as Solution Specialists under the new system, but even at this level resellers will be required to up their game.
“We will be asking for more from them,” Ellis said. “To get accredited today, they have to go online and pass an exam. Tomorrow they may be asked to go on a course, then pass an exam and then they will get a call from one of our pre-sales people to certify that they have those extra skills. It will become harder to be regarded as certified.”
Symantec will also cap the number of partners for each specialism.
Alastair Edwards, senior analyst at Canalys, said the economic climate has prompted many vendors to cement ties with their most competent partners. “This will encourage specialisation, which is important at the moment,” he said.
“Vendors are focusing more resource on a more select group of partners to get them through the crisis. It is important in these times to show a true level of partnership with the distributor and reseller.”
Nick Garlick, managing director of VAR Nebulas Solutions Group, which entered the Symantec channel following its acquisition of data leakage prevention (DLP) vendor Vontu, approved of the strategy.
“One of the big pushes this year is around the security side of Symantec’s business, and DLP is a key area of that. This is great news for DLP partners such as us,” he said.
Recovering lost ground
Although still the security industry’s undisputed silverback, Symantec has lost market share to rivals.
In its most recent quarter to 3 April, revenues slid four per cent on an annual comparison to $1.49bn (£904m), with security and compliance revenues tumbling 14 per cent.
Contrast that with closest rival McAfee, which cheered a 21 per cent year-on-year rise in revenues to $448m in its comparable quarter.
Edwards said: “We have seen Symantec lose ground, partly because partners are concerned about its lack of transparency.”
But Ellis claimed Symantec has made headway in the channel over the past 12 months, particularly around partner enablement.
According to Ellis, Symantec trained 12,000 channel sales staff in EMEA in its fiscal year to 1 April, a massive spike on the usual figure of about 7,000. The number of technical certifications gained by partners more than doubled to 6,000.
“Last year, our managed partners achieved more revenue than ever and our distribution revenues grew,” he said. “Our channel outgrew Symantec’s own growth.”
Ellis said that the new partner programme is designed to build upon that sales and technical accreditation drive.
“The transition will happen this year,” he added. “We will do it delicately and respect the investment partners have made in the old system, but fundamentally we will be moving to a solution-specialist model.”
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