M86 Security expands online channel partner training options

In an effort to standardize its training offerings, M86 Security opened up its 'university' to all global partners this week.

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In an effort to consolidate and standardize its training offerings, M86 Security Inc. has opened up its M86 University online learning management portal to all of its global partners.

Tom Pfau, senior training manager for Orange, Calif.-based M86 Security, said the expansion of its training program, which provides classes for engineers, as well as sales and support staff, is an effort to build on the assets of M86 Security's four subsidiaries, each of which had brought a different training approach to the table.

"We had to normalize the base of understanding of our products. …We had to get all of the training resources aligned properly and set up in a systemized and organized fashion that coincides with partners' needs and delivers this to our very large channel, too," Pfau said.

The Web and email threat protection company, which formed in 2008 after the merge of Marshal and 8e6 Technologies, also acquired Web gateway company Finjan Inc. and behavioral-based malware security company Avinti Inc. in 2009.

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With the acquisitions came more products that channel partners needed to keep up on. In the Americas, for example, the channel had a strong knowledge of the California-based 8e6 Web filtering products, said Pfau, but had less exposure to the WebMarshal and MailMarshal products, which came from the U.K. The M86 University program, said Pfau, will help get them up to speed on the various product lines.

"Channels in America have different needs versus those in Europe," Pfau added. "We have to set up this grand platform that is elegant and flexible enough for each region."

The M86 University tracks -- delivered through the online portal at M86.com -- are available for any eligible partner. Classes are given in three formats: traditional in-person classes, webinars that can be viewed from the desk or supplemental computer-based training made up of digestible 15-30 minute videos.

The program is divided into three tracks: Certified Sales Professional (CSP), Certified Sales Engineer (CSE) and Certified Professional (CP). Each track has core classes, based on product fundamentals and supplemental classes, which are 15-30 minute classes based on more niche topics like emerging threats, upselling and cross-selling strategies.

The Certified Sales Engineer training program is designed for individuals involved in technical pre-sales and sales engineering efforts for a specific product, and who may need to install and configure products and make technical recommendations at a customer site.

The Certified Sales Professional track addresses product fundamentals and features, like M86's Secure Web Gateway or Web Filter and Reporter. The Certified Professional designation, which requires the CSP training track as a pre-requisite, will also provide further information on how to troubleshoot products. Partners will use this certification to handle basic, "level-1" technical support for their customers, including, for example, how to block a particular site from end users or how to use specific Web filtering products.

M86 University will address the four main product lines: M86 Secure Web Gateway, Web Filter and Reporter, MailMarshal and WebMarshal.

All certifications are available in the portal. A channel partner, who may be looking to receive, say, a WebMarshal certified sales engineer certification, can log in and go directly to the exam of 20-50 questions if he or she chooses. "It's important for partners who have been selling or supporting or doing sales engineer for years, and could probably even teach the course!" Pfau said.

The beta version of M86 University launched on April 5 and opened up the portal to 60 channel contacts worldwide. After making technical tweaks and taking feedback from the partners, M86 will launch its learning management system today, bringing in all of their partners, approximately 150, according to Pfau.

The course catalog is divided into four regions, including the United Kingdom, United States, EMEA and Asia/Pacific. Each program is regionalized, said Pfau, and each of the region's sales leaders can require specific, customized classes for its partners. "Customized training classes will be built around what we're hearing from the partners," Pfau said.

Benefits of certifications, like better margins, will be determined by each region's sales manager. Each region's leader will also determine which certifications are mandatory.

"We've designed a system that is flexible enough that each region is in charge," he said, and a region's classes can be modified to focus on a new version of a product, a new competitor or a new kind of technical problem if deemed appropriate.

Pfau said the demand for training is high. A large number of classes have already been scheduled, and partners are eager for information on the various products.

"Up until now, there has been no easy way for them to access this information and sign up for classes. Now it's an open field."

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