Partner Engage 2009: Symantec unveils new programs, incentives for VARs

At the Symantec Partner Engage 2009 channel conference this week, Symantec's new CEO unveiled a new, more channel-friendly vision for the security giant, which included new programs and incentives for Symantec partners.

ORLANDO – Enrique Salem wants Symantec Corp.'s VARs to know that not only is the security giant recommitting itself to the channel, but also that a key part of that effort will involve helping channel customers use technology to secure sensitive data.

Salem this week delivered his first keynote at Symantec's annual Partner Engage conference as the vendor's president and chief executive officer, a position he assumed in April following the retirement of long-time Symantec CEO John Thompson.

The theme of the conference focused around what Symantec called "The Four R's:" revenue, readiness, relevance and reputation. These four ideas were infused through all of the executives' presentations for the approximately 380 VARs in attendance.

Without significant, recurring revenue, Symantec will be unable to reach its goals as a company, said Randy Cochran, vice president of American channel sales at Symantec. Cochran also stressed that Symantec must invest in tools that will make partners as effective as possible, a sentiment that he described as "readiness."

He went on to explain that with a product landscape as broad as Symantec's, partners must work to stay familiar with all the latest offerings. If partners cannot express the value of these products to customers, they will surely not be relevant, no matter how effective the products may be.

Reputation, which Cochran listed as the most important idea, is a concept that the Symantec executives believe to be a combination of three things: partners' reputations, Symantec's reputation, and the reputations of their customers. In order to best protect partners' investments, all three must be taken into consideration.

Salem, who made an effort to be a visible presence throughout the event, stressed the important role that VARs play in Symantec's No. 1 goal, which is to become not only the largest security vendor in the world, but also the best.

He also advised the partners that their jobs were to simplify security for their customers, while stressing the major role that data loss prevention (DLP) would play in that effort. "We will have DLP everywhere," Salem said. "We'll put DLP in everything our customers do."

Salem also predicted that for every year that he is at the helm, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company's channel will continue to grow. In order to back up this prediction, Symantec unveiled some new additions to its partner program geared toward helping its VARs increase business and productivity.

Symantec partner program announcements

Foremost among those channel program enhancements is the launch of SymDemo, a virtual tool that allows VARs to demonstrate how Symantec's products work. Rather than needing a VPN connection to their own environments or the actual equipment to show customers the value of certain products, all partners need is a laptop and an Internet connection. Running on a platform based in the cloud, the tool consists of 30 demos and over 80 virtual machine images.

SymDemo provides partners with training as well as the opportunity to explore products and tools intended to help customers make a more educated investment. "This will drive more revenue, I promise you that," Cochran said.

The tool is expected to save partners time and money when presenting new products to customers. "It's very useful, because in the past, we've had to have powerful notebooks to run these demo machines, and that demands a lot of money," said Silvio Eberardo, a Symantec partner based in Brazil.

Another addition that received positive reviews from partners is an enhanced authorized renewals program. This initiative rewards incumbency by giving partners more incentive to resign and in turn develop new opportunities with existing customers.

"Renewals are in many cases opportunities to have a conversation with the customer about what else we can do," Salem said. This program is available for gold and platinum Symantec partners in the U.S., and silver, gold and platinum partners in Canada.

A new specialization was unveiled at the conference as well, focusing on enterprise partners. The specialization consists of training and certifications that will better prepare partners to work with enterprise customers. It was spawned after its SMB specialization counterpart performed well for the company and for partners. Partners will need to acquire accreditations in the Symantec Protection Suite Enterprise Edition. In exchange for the accreditations, partners will receive more incentives.

Cochran believes this specialization is a step in the right direction as far as customers are concerned. He believes that customers want solution providers to assume the trusted advisor role, but also to have an in-depth knowledge of the market segment on which they focus. The specialization will launch with more details in late 2009.

Symantec Connect, the company's online community, has added a partner-specific aspect. This addition to the community will allow partners to collaborate and learn from their peers. It will also serve as a way for Symantec to communicate more directly with partners.

Big Yellow also announced a services offering called the "Sell With" program. Currently in pilot mode, it will give partners closing new deals in the enterprise, midmarket or SMB space the opportunity to also deliver whatever services can be attached to the deal, with no competition from Symantec's internal service team.

"The program aligns our goals with Symantec's, and it really drives a very strong relationship at the field level," said Feris Rifai, CEO and founder of Bay Dynamics, a San Francisco-based partner. "It eliminates any conflict that Symantec Services would've had with its partners."

Partners seemed enthusiastic and encouraged by Symantec's announcements. While they, for the most part, were impressed by the announcements and presentations, some thought it was still too early to judge exactly how effective the new programs and incentives will be.

"We're cautiously optimistic about where Symantec is headed," said William H. Santos, general manager of services development for SHI International Corp., an IT products and services company based in Piscataway, N.J. "We'd like to see more than a few paragraphs on some of these programs, but if there's content behind the announcements, then we're very excited."

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