McAfee channel chief points partners towards services

McAfee's Gavin Struthers urges partners to double down on building out their own services, points to growing managed security services opportunities.

Gavin Struthers, senior vice president of global channel and indirect go-to-market operations at Intel Security.

Gavin Struthers, senior vice president of global channel and indirect go-to-market operations at Intel Security.

LAS VEGAS – Intel Security channel chief Gavin Struthers used his SecurityAlliance Partner Summit 2014 keynote to make an impassioned plea for partners to ramp up their services offerings.

Services are, of course, identified by virtually all solution providers as key to their growth and absolutely central to their profitability. Still, Struthers said, his company’s products aren’t necessarily getting the appropriate services love.

“It is criminal that 80 per cent of our products are walking out the door with services attached to them. And wow, is this an opportunity for us,” Struthers told attendees.

And as important as services may be today, Struthers sees them becoming even more important as customers become “more demanding” and increasingly look for business outcomes rather than technical solutions.

“Customers are tired of our agenda” of big, paid-up-front solutions of hardware and software that “put all the risk back on them, Struthers told partners.

“Don’t get me wrong, long may those big deals reign, and we’re doing well there. But we need to heed the warning. Customers will want to put the risk back on the technology suppliers,” Struthers said. “The old world is product resale, the new world it delivering business outcomes.”

Calling that delivery “the elephant in the room” because “it’s big, it’s hairy, and it’s complex,” Struthers said the vendor’s job, along with its partners, is to “figure out how to make it over that divide” from product sales to selling business outcomes.

Struthers took partners through a four-step services journey, starting with a pure play products reseller, moving to a mix of products and services, then through optimized services and consultative sale, and finally to selling business outcomes.

Most partners today, he said, find themselves in the second category, where much of the services are related to deployment of hardware and software, and there’s not much –as-a-Service going on. He contends that more partners will have to move towards the third and fourth levels, which will mean different business models and a different way of talking to customers.

“You need to develop and hone a services model,” Struthers said, adding that the future partners “is a professional services game, and it’s time we stepped it up.”

The good news is that “there’s a massive gap” in terms of the skills available to deliver such a services-centric approach, meaning that most customers will be looking to partners to deliver those services. The bad news is that, according to survey of CIOs by Gartner quoted by Struthers, many customers will be firing providers if they don’t deliver demonstrated, differentiating expertise.

Managed security services, long a hotbed of growth for security focused partners, are still “overwhelmingly exciting for us,” Struthers said before detailing several recent competitive displacement wins where Intel Security has taken out other vendors in MSSPs’ environments.

And though services are key to the company’s success, Struthers stressed that “less than five per cent of our business are in services,” so the company needs its partners to ramp up their own services practices to meet market demand and keep growth going.

“Get started on this journey, and if you are started, then start honing your offering,” Struthers urged partners. “Help us figure out how to go after this market, and help you to do so. I’m not trying to say that today’s message is a panacea for everything we’re going to do together, but hopefully, we’ve started a conversation on delivering outcomes for customers.”

This year’s keynote follows the “frank talk” style that Struthers used last year, when he urged partners to “get off the fence” and commit more of their business and focus to fewer security vendors, with his own organization ideally being the chosen one. The problem with partners splitting up their security business among a potpourri of vendors is that “we weren’t relevant enough to you, and you weren’t relevant enough to us,” Struthers said.

“I’m not declaring victory, but there’s been some phenomenal results,” Struthers said of the company’s efforts to drive more partner loyalty and share. Partners have doubled the number of deals registered with the vendor, and are tracking at 60 per cent growth on top of that year-to-date, and top partners are growing their business with the company at about 20 per cent, Struthers said, three times the overall market growth.