Symantec revamps partner program

John Emard, senior director of North American channel programs and operations at Symantec.

John Emard, senior director of North American channel programs and operations at Symantec.

Security vendor Symantec has unveiled its long-awaited new channel program, one that it says will more closely align partner incentives and rewards with its own priorities.

The new program is the culmination of a journey that began 24 months ago, back  when Enrique Salem was CEO, and ended up not just Salem, but his successor Steve Bennett. The company knew it had some problems with its channel strategy, and it set out to fix them, said John Emard, senior director of North American channel programs and operations at Symantec.

“We weren’t growing at the rate we needed to, and we weren’t taking advantage of market opportunities – we were playing in growing markets, but our growth was anemic,” Emard said. “We were having trouble looking beyond the 90-day quarterly period, and we weren’t executing on how we leverage our routes to market to deliver our solutions to customers.”

Last year, at its PartnerEngage annual partner conference, the company outlined the broad strokes of its new channel strategy, and today at its Vision event in Las Vegas, it brought forth the details of the program. With the program, Symantec sought to solve a number of structural programs in its previous program.

“We had way too many programs and they were very complex – at one point, we had over 20 partner programs. They weren’t incenting the right types of behaviours, there was an inefficient spend of investment dollars, and we didn’t have global consistency,” Emard said.

That changes now, with a single global program that will roll out between now and the fall, one that Emard said will look to go deeper with top partners, while still providing some degree of flexibility to partners who are less invested in their Symantec business.

“It’s much simpler, and it’s aligned to what our partners do,” Emard said. “It’s not about telling them what to do, it’s about showing them a program that is flexible, solutions-focused, and creates greater differentiation.”

In each of 12 competency areas, Symantec will offer partners two levels of certification: Principal and Expert. For the principal level, a competency will require sales and technical training, a customer reference, and a $10,000 annual minimum commitment for business. The Expert level builds on that, demanding advanced training, a “much larger” target revenue, measured customer satisfaction levels, and validation of the company’s technical and sales capabilities.

“The new competencies are based on the ability to create a positive customer experience. The old specializations were based on taking tests,” Emard said. “We expect to see a lot of partners in the volume space not go after Expert competencies. We’re moving the bar at the very top end, and if you go big, you get rewarded big.”

Based on the number of Principal and Expert competencies a partner reaches, they’ll slot into the program at the Registered, Silver, Gold or Platinum level.

Registered  is the base level of the program, only for partners who have not yet reached any competencies

Silver requires at least one Principal competency, and will include a 10 per cent uplift on deal registration.

Gold requires at least one Expert competency, includes 20 per cent deal registration, as well as a renewal incentive rebate of two per cent, and a four per cent “growth acceleration” rebate based on new-customer sales of products covered within the competency.

Platinum requires three Expert competencies, includes similar deal and renewal registration benefits, doubles the growth acceleration bonus to eight per cent, and includes “investment development funds” of up to five per cent of sales within the competency for spending on business development.

While the new program may seem to punish those partners who go wide but not deep, as a partner needs to reach Expert competencies to move any higher than Silver no matter how many Principal competencies they may hold, the news isn’t all bad for the “jack of all trades” type of partner. Effective immediately, Emard said the company is dropping authorizations for specific products, meaning all parnters will have access to the full lineup.

The company announced the new program today, and will fully transition over to it in October. Partners who are able to qualify for the new competencies today, though, and will start earning the incremental benefits for doing so immediately. Existing specializations will be grandfathered into the new competencies, Emard said.

The new  program is primarily focused on resellers, solution providers, and integrators. Emard said the company was working on program elements centered on other types of partners, including MSPs, cloud providers, influencers, and distributors.