Intel Security to revamp program, incentives around new strategy

Richard Steranka, senior vice president of partner operations for Intel Security

Richard Steranka, senior vice president of partner operations for Intel Security

BOCA RATON, FLA — At its Focus end user and partner conference last fall, Intel Security laid out its new strategy, one designed around building products that fit into an integrated platform and more fully addresses a threat-defense lifecycle that includes detection, protection, and correction. And now, it’s time to make it easier — and indeed mandatory — for its channel partners to get on board.

At its first Americas Partner Conference held distinctly from Focus here this week, global channel chief Richard Steranka said the company would rejig program incentives and training efforts around its new platform and the four areas of security upon which it intends to focus.

Steranka told partners the company will continue to “reward for performance,” but what that performance is has to change. In particular, the company intends to incent solution providers more heavily to sell solutions within the platform, sell across the platforms, and sell to new customers and new markets.

“We want to move towards the endgame of selling things that are going to move [Intel Security] towards [its] goals,” Steranka said, although he acknowledged that “the new knobs on these things need to be moved slowly” so as not to torpedo partner profitability in the near-term while re-organizing with a long-term view.

Steranka suggested that changes to its incentives and other programs will begin to roll out as early as the third quarter of this year, and that partners will have “ample notice” on the changes to come.

“We want to boost your profitability, because a profitable partner is a good partner for us,” he said.

These aren’t the first changes Intel Security is making to its programs in response to what it sees as a changing market and landscape. Earlier this year, it introduced new sales competencies around its key markets — intelligent endpoint, preventing data theft, securing a hybrid infrastructure, and intelligent security operations. With that change, it also changed how it recognizes partner training. Rather than requiring a set number of hours of education, which often had long-serving technical and sales people at partners retaking courses and sessions they already knew by heart to meet requirements, the company now doesn’t require any training, per se. If you can meet the demands of the final exams, you’re good to go, regardless of how (or when) you learned the material.

Ultimately, Steranka — in an argument similar that made by many sales and channel chiefs in the last while — told partners that the company and partners alike must increasingly orient their offerings, their measurements, and their incentives around the business outcomes for their joint customers.

“If we don’t do this, the rest is moot. We will not have strategic engagement, and we will not be profitable,” he warned. “We will not be in business if we can’t deliver.”

Conversely, if the company can re-orient around its platform, and particularly around the security outcomes about which an increasingly non-IT enterprise buying committee cares, the sky’s the limit, the executive suggested. In fact, after listing some areas where he believes the company and its partners are leaving opportunities “on the table,” Steranka issued a very specific challenge to partners. If every partner were to sell one additional Intel Security product to one quarter of its exiting customers, and if partners were to sell either the company’s or their own professional services with that product; and if the company’s partner in aggregate were able to move from four per cent of business coming from new customers, to ten per cent of business coming from new customers, the company would be able to double its business, he believes.

Steranka also addressed some changes the company is making in partner tools and resources as it moves to managing those through a Salesforce system, but acknowledged that it will take some time for partners to get fully up to speed with new processes from the vendor. He promised a “handbook” from the vendor in the next quarters to provide a more complete guide to working with the security vendor from an operational point of view.

He also offered a mea culpa for the company’s handling of its dropping a number of technologies last year. As part of a process to re-align the company strongly on enterprise security and to get out of market where it didn’t feel it could be a strong player, last fall Intel Security closed or sold off separate lines of business, including its next-generation firewall business. Steranka said the company realizes it “caused partners pain” in that transition, and pledged to be “more proactive in making it seamless and not having it impact your business the way it did” should they go through similar experiences in the future.