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Symantec split: Partners wait it out

Partners respond to the news that Symantec will split into two separate companies.

Someone at Symantec -- perhaps it will be recently appointed Rick Kramer, vice president of channel sales for North America -- will have to explain to partners attending the vendor's Partner Engage event in Arizona next week what yesterday's news that Symantec will split into two separate companies will mean for their businesses. Partners have seen quite a bit of churn at the executive level of the company and in channel leadership over the past 18 months or so. This latest news adds to the disruption.

Industry watcher and CEO of PartnerPath Diane Krakora, while bullish on the announcement made earlier this week that HP will split into two companies, was not as confident in similar news from Symantec.

"The HP split is more around customer sets and how you engage a partner. With Symantec, the partners who are selling their products need both sets of products -- the security and information management -- for a data center buildout or full solution for the midmarket business customers," she said.

While admitting that she hasn't seen the numbers, Krakora believes that many partners likely sold both product sets. "So it will mean a lot more redundancy for the partner if they're dealing with two vendors," she said.

What concerns Krakora is the potential for increased complexity for Symantec's partners and just how much of a distraction it will be as they try to figure out -- depending on how deep the split is -- how to engage with two organizations, i.e., sales reps, account reps, systems, product, MDF, and so forth. Or will partners opt to leave one of the product sets altogether if they were more committed to one of the Symantec products sets -- security or information management -- driving them closer to a secondary vendor partner?

Time will tell just how hard breaking up is to do.

Right now, we have one point of contact for our business, so we're not sure how that's going to work going forward.

Mark Cavaliero,
President of Carolinas IT

In the meanwhile, what are Symantec partners thinking?

Symantec partners shared some thoughts about the creation of two companies -- one company focused on security and the other company focused on information management -- and the potential impact this may have on doing business with Symantec.

Kurt Klein, CEO of CMT Inc. in Santa Clara, Calif., a 12-year-plus Symantec partner and currently a Platinum partner, noted that his company's business crosses boundaries between the vendor's security and information management portfolios. He added CMT is currently in the process of ramping up its security offering for its customers.

"For us, because we're so committed to Symantec, the news [of the company split] is not so daunting. I think that there's opportunity to be had in the clarity that Symantec is seeking in terms of why they've decided to do it," he said.

For CMT, which has been in business for 32 years, a bit of disruption isn't a big deal. "We can get through that, especially if it makes them and us stronger and more focused in these very unique product categories … then I'm all for it," said Klein.

However, he did note that it will be interesting to see, once the separation of the company is completed, if Symantec has more of a standalone offering or if they are an immediate acquisition target as rumors already circulating would have you believe.

The loyal Symantec partner admitted that he expects to see some momentum lost with changes of feet on the street, but he added that the consistency that CMT brings to customers will benefit both CMT and Symantec.

Klein, who will be attending Symantec Partner Engage 2014 next week, expects Symantec leadership to say there will be obvious changes and partners should stay committed and be consistent. "How eloquently they can separate and create new sales forces and new clarity I think is yet to be determined," he said.

Symantec is an anchor vendor for CMT. NetApp is the company's main storage partner, and there's some Cisco business that CMT does, as well. However, CMT is in the process of revamping its portfolio, putting a new emphasis on creating a level of secure environment for all of the data that it touches for the customer. 

Will the Symantec split impact CMT's business path?

"No, I don't think that it will upset it at all," Klein said. "I do think that there will be points where we will have to measure our cadence in terms of how we make decisions in terms of marketing and messaging and who we're working with specifically on security deals versus information management deals."

What's critical for CMT is that it continues to be well thought of in regards to its value-add and the margin it expects to be paid.

Mark Cavaliero, president of Carolinas IT, a Symantec Platinum partner based in Raleigh, North Carolina, wasn't thrilled with the break-up news.

"We're heavily dependent on both product lines in security and information management. I agree that Symantec needed to refocus on security, but I don't think they necessarily had to split up to make that happen," he said.

If there's one thing that Cavaliero is certain about, it's that there's going to be some uncertainty going forward. "Right now, we have one point of contact for our business, so we're not sure how that's going to work going forward."

Will the breakup be a good thing for Symantec and partners? "It depends on how Symantec executes the split, who the leadership is at each company, and how those leadership teams work with partners," he said.

With the Symantec news coming on the heels of the news about HP splitting up its business, Andy Gilbert, director of solutions architects and partner development at Alphanumeric Systems Inc., based in Raleigh, NC, noted that, from a partner perspective, they're accustomed to having to deal with multiple contacts within a company.

"At this point, we cautiously anticipate that we won't be increasing our touch points and that there will not be any significant impact," he said.

According to Symantec, while the Board of Directors has approved the division of the company into two separate entities, the spinoff is expected to be completed by the end of December 2015.

Additional reporting by Rob Wright.

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How will the Symantec split impact your channel business?