Symantec’s new partner program puts shine on specializations

Symantec North American channel chief Randy Cochran

Symantec North American channel chief Randy Cochran

LAS VEGAS – Symantec announced changes to its partner program at its Partner Engage 2010 conference here, making its long-awaited switch from a volume-based program to one based on partners accumulating specializations.

The company announced in April that it would make the switch, and North American channel chief Randy Cochran pronounced the program live Wednesday afternoon, wrapping up a busy day at the company’s annual partner gathering.

“To stay relevant to you, we have to stay on the cutting edge,” Cochran told the 400 partners in attendance at the MGM Grand here, adding that it’s been five years since a major overhaul of the company’s program.

The program retains its Registered, Silver, Gold and Platinum levels, but instead of revenues, the number of specializations the organization holds will decide partner levels. Reaching the silver tier will require a partner to hold one specialization, Gold partners will retire two, and Platinum partners will require four.

The company’s specializations for channel partners include the following options:

  • Enterprise Security
  • Endpoint Management
  • Data Loss Prevention
  • IT Compliance
  • Data Protection
  • Storage Management
  • High Availability
  • Archiving and eDiscovery
  • Small and Midsize Business

Cochran said the company would add a tenth specialization around encryption (a result of its purchases of PGP and Guardian Edge this year) next February.

The move is motivated by an effort on the part of Symantec to “brand you all as the experts, both to you customers and to Symantec,” Cochran said. It follows the company’s decision earlier this year to turn around all of its services opportunities to the channel.

Although the program is live today, partners are being grandfathered into the new program at their previous levels, and will have until the end of September 2011 to reach the requirements of the new program.

“Most of you in this audience are already there, but if you need it, you have 11 months to migrate to the new program,” he said.

For partners looking to move up in the program, Cochran announced a “buy one get one free” program for specialization upgrades, under which Symantec will meet partners halfway if they’re looking to add two specializations to their organization. The promotion counts towards classroom-based training. Symantec continues to offer free Web-based training for most partner focuses.

Cochran detailed the profitability model of the new program. Specialized partners will immediately get better discounts than their non-specialized brethren, and afterwards can get an additional 18 per cent discount and rebate for using the new opportunity registration system, which will only be open to specialized partners. On top of that, specialized partners will be the only ones able to add Symantec-designed services, making way for product margins of 25 per cent or so before solution providers add their own services and value-add. He said partners might find their mileages vary from that figure, “but you can’t argue that there’s a lot more margin on any transaction if you’re specialized than if you’re not.”

Cochran also detailed a “master specialization” program for each of the specializations for partners with deep services expertise in each field. The program is slated to roll out over the next 30 days.

Partners react

Two of the company’s top Canadian solution providers gave the revised program the thumbs-up.

Fred Dimson, executive vice president of Ottawa-based Kanatek Technologies, said his company has “everything in place” to meet the demands for several of the four data protection-related specializations, suggesting the company will fairly easily meet the new Platinum Partner standard.

He praised the program for de-emphasizing “some of the people who really just fulfill products and don’t have the depth and breadth of skills we have,” and said his organization is closely eyeing the master program.

“We’ve already got the expertise in place to make it happen, we really just have to write some exams,” he said.

Bradley Brodkin, president of Toronto-based HighVail Systems, Symantec’s newly announced Canadian Partner of the Year, said the program is “an excellent switch” for the security vendor. His company is in line to qualify for two of the new specializations in high availability and data protection, and will look to add two more over the next year to retain its Platinum status.

“I like being one of their top partners because it endears us to them and them to us,” Brodkin said. “We’re always going to go for the highest level of certification. Always. Otherwise, it just doesn’t make sense.”

His positivity for the changes extends to the whole of the vendor, saying he’s seeing “a warmer side to Symantec” than he has seen in the past in terms of how it deals with its partner channel.

“I have a better feeling out of what I’m being presented right now,” he said. will have more from Partner Engage 2010 Thursday, including details of the company’s new Opportunity Registration program and a variety of other smaller programs and offerings introduced here.