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Inside a channel partner program: Kaspersky Lab, Nancy Reynolds

Announced in early January, Nancy Reynolds, the former director of business strategy for global commercial channels at Dell, is now Kaspersky Lab Inc.'s senior vice president of sales.

As Reynolds begins her new work, she talks about Kaspersky's commitment to the channel and early objectives regarding its channel partner program.

What are some of the early goals for your partner program?
An early goal we have is to establish tools to better enable partners. We have a very good renewal annuity for them, but now, how do we better educate them to help us find new customers as well as help them keep their new customers? We'll emphasize education, knowledge transfer and lead management, continuing to farm those out to those partners who want to do business with Kaspersky. Tell me about that knowledge transfer and education process. Any specifics you can share there?
For partners, we want to educate the sales team as well as the technical team members. It's very important to educate, promote, incent and recognize the engineering staff of our partners, so we want to continue to develop short-term learning modules so everyone can get knowledge. And similar to a university system, do you want to graduate, do you want to become a PhD and become a specialist, or do you want to take another track and grow your technical prowess? What are you bringing from your past into this new position, in terms of specific programs or specific direction?
There are three things really that I bring with me. First is to hire talent: Put your best people on your partners because it's a business relationship; it's not an agency model. Second is to remain true to your word, so integrity -- making sure we have integrity in our programs and maintaining profitability with our partners and our customers. What does it mean to have program integrity in a channel organization?
I would extend it across to the entire sales program. It means doing what you're saying you're going to do. Not just "100% channel," but 100% of the time on all the products, [including] the commitments on program enhancements. What are areas of future growth for the channel?
We've made tremendous inroads in SMB. … You'll be hearing about Mac and managed services. The Mac product that we will release later this year will be able to be deployed and centrally managed through our Admin Kit. The managed services capabilities that we will offer through our partners will basically expand the manageability from our Admin Kit, which will include Mac as well. In the mid-enterprise space, we're going to be revving all of our Web , messaging and infrastructure products. … We have enterprise customers today and the opportunities to expand into new customer types. We're continuing to optimize in the public sector, but also, health care, and even financial and retail, is an opportunity for us. These vertical markets like health care -- how much are they driven by compliance needs on the other end, and how do your VARs need to react to that?
I think most of it is being driven by the government-given stimulus package and funds, so it's more about security as risk management and less about complying with guidelines. So that's your partner's approach as well? A risk management exercise as opposed to checkbox?
I believe so; that's still to be determined, but I think as you go down the risk management path, you are more likely to gain credibility with the customers and understand their business pain points, as opposed to just being a skew to them. It's easy to emphasize the need to be risk-focused, but at the end of the day, many channel customers need to fulfill compliance requirements as well. How do you reconcile those two sets of objectives?
At Kaspersky, we do security well, which allows partners to build a business around security and the AV space. How we help them is we're part of their overall security business practice. We're not the practice. Part of what partners like to do is incorporate our technology and go to market with that. How important is certification with your partners?
I think certification is only as important as the customer deems certification. So for us, it's not so much about being certified as it is, "Are you the best at security?" I would like our partners to be as smart or smarter than our systems engineers and our sales people. For me, education and knowledge is more important than a badge, at this stage. … With certification, our partners tend to think, "Oh my gosh, I'm going to have to do twenty days of training." But for us initially, it's more about knowledge transfer and getting smarter than yesterday and smarter than the competition. Kaspersky is 100% channel, which is obviously a conscious decision by the company. Why is that such an edge, why is that in the corporate culture the way it is?
I think it's important because we're consistent, and partners who are building their business with Kaspersky need to know what the future looks like. They need to plan their resources, their headcount, their engineering resources, and then they need to know they can depend on their renewal annuity stream being there, that it's not going to go away, that as we launch into new markets and new products that we're going to lead and go with them. What specifically do your channel partners like?
First, primarily, [the] technology: Does it work? Not only does it work, but there are some benchmarks out there that say we work extremely well. … Secondly, partners want to know that we have their back. So support -- both technical support, pre-sales and post-sales -- is very critical, and we have a very solid infrastructure built out here in the Americas, here in Boston, so none of that is outsourced. If you had to pinpoint one area of Kaspersky's channel program that's likely to undergo change in the next 12 months, what would it be, and why?
We're absolutely focused on investment, and by that I mean, we're going to provide better tools to help their business and help them grow their business. Both sales tools and communication tools -- not only the communication to them, but also to their customers. If it's good for them, how do I help them repackage it quickly in a consumable way so they can talk to their customers in a way that's not spam? If you're the CEO, do I send you an email a week, or do I phone you once a month? Are you a part of your advisory council? ….If they don't know where you're going, it's hard for them to get excited about going with you. There is some investment here in support over the past year. A conscious decision in terms of the economic background?
It was a conscious decision to invest in support services. Certainly as we build out the partner infrastructure, we want to know which partners want the services business. We're not in the services business. We're in the technology business. So, again, back to why 100% channel is so important -- as we develop services, which partner, which customer, can we service better? What's your mandate in the first six months in terms of meeting with partners? What are you hoping to glean in those initial interactions?
Three things: What should Kaspersky continue to do, what should we stop doing, and what should we start doing? As we make changes and enhancements, we don't want to break anything that's working. Expect to hear any surprises?
There's always a surprise, but the question is: Can we react and is it good for the business for both of us?

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