Symantec to debut new support, channel programs

Symantec is rolling out new programs that merge storage and security, channel sales and direct , with a little anti-Microsoft customer-base-protection thrown in.

Sixteen months after finalizing its acquisition of high-end storage vendor Veritas Software, Symantec Corp. is announcing the unification of the two companies' technical support and channel programs.

The first set of announcements, which are due sometime next week, will reveal a technical support program that offers three levels of personal or business support on the full range of security, data storage and systems-availability products.

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The three offerings include: Basic Support, which is effective only during business hours, Essential Support for 24/7 assistance, and Business Critical, which includes everything from a support-team member dedicated to one company to a team of Symantec experts on call to solve critical problems

The challenge in the program wasn't in creating the categories, but in integrating two very different support organizations in order to deliver consistent service from both Veritas and Symantec techs, according to Greg Hughes, executive vice president of worldwide services and support.

"We had to fully integrate 2,000 people spread across the globe and from two different companies, and then create a single call management and message management system," said Hughes.

The company's services business breaks down into to two groups: an enterprise support team of 2,000 people, and a consulting and education team of 1,000, Hughes said.

All are trained to respond to problems on security, availability, performance and compliance.

Symantec expects to increase its support staff by 400% to 500% by 2010, both by hiring and through acquisitions, Hughes said.

Symantec CEO John Thompson announced earilier this month that the company's goal is to grow from its current $4 billion-per-year size to a $10 billion per year by 2010; by that time, services will be 10% of its business, he said. At the time of the merger with Veritas, services accounted for 3% of revenue and are now between 4% and 5%.

In addition to its technical support, Symantec is revamping its channel program, streamlining it to eliminate many of the inefficiencies that grew during the period before the Veritas acquisition, and to reinforce Symantec's position selling into the small- and medium-sized business market, according to Julie Parrish, vice president of the company's global channel office.

"Symantec had about eight different programs, aimed at different partner segments," Parrish said. "Programs for software solution providers, retailers, were all completely different; it was very confusing. And we didn't have the classic triangle, though, where you start here, invest in the program and move up the chain."

"Veritas had more of the classic triangle, but it was focused mainly on more enterprise partners," she said. "So we put those two approaches aside and decided to create just one program that would include everyone but that would keep Symantec partners from feeling too much of a change."

That division, between Symantec and Veritas' approach to the channel, will bear watching, according to Charlotte Dunlap, analyst at Current Analysis, Inc. in Sterling, Va.

Symantec's commitment to an indirect sales strategy made it a darling of the channel, she said. Veritas, on the other hand, sold primarily direct and fostered a very different attitude among its salesforce than the more egalitarian Symantec, she said.

Bringing the two together has been a challenge, but more because Symantec has been careful to match the new programs to the benefits specific VARs had already been receiving, Parrish said. "If one company had a 3% discount under the old program, we wanted to make sure they had the same under the new one," she said.

The channel brings in 80% of Symantec's revenue, and will continue to make up the vast bulk of its business, according to Parrish.

The new channel program, which the company has been rolling out in pieces, the next of which will come in early November, focuses heavily on SMBs and on packaged solutions for that market.

The next addition to its product menu, Symantec Windows Protect Solution, is actually a series of three packages.

One focuses on antivirus, groupware security and archiving; another provides mainly data recovery and remote-control software; the third is all about email and instant messaging, providing backup and, most importantly, the ability to keep employees from sending out sensitive information via email or instant messages.

Symantec will also launch a new program for system builders trying to reach SMB customers, as well as service and support offerings, and business advice and support.

The SMB packages are attractive, and the channel focus continues to present Symantec's strengths, according to Jeff Kaplan, analyst at THINKstrategies in Wellesley, Ma.

But the effort may be at least as much to fend off Microsoft and its growing list of security functions, rather than simply to preserve the loyalty of Symantec's channel partners.

"Microsoft has ways of developing software that literally moves its competitors out of the box," Kaplan said. "Symantec is going right to the channel and the customers to try to keep that from happening."

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