Comodo is recruiting partners who are prepared to make a deeper commitment to the company and supporting them through the program, while leveraging distribution for the first time ever to support much larger numbers of more transactional partners.
Today, Comodo Cybersecurity is formally announcing the worldwide rollout of the Comodo Cybersecurity Partner Program. While some the certifications that will be a key part of the program are still in various stages of development, the rest of the program, including a new partner portal built to the latest Partner Relationship Management standards, are live. The program itself is designed to be more flexible than those partners typically encounter in endpoint security. It emphasizes the ability of each partner to choose their own status by the level of commitment they make to the company, rather than meeting a laundry list of vendor-defined criteria.
Comodo had a channel program previously, but it was for the SSL certificate business that was spun off in late 2017 and is now Sectigo.
“There was nothing for the cybersecurity business,” said Rebecca Myrick, VP of Worldwide Channel Sales and Operations at Comodo Cybersecurity. “Everything was originally centred around the SSL certificate business, and that program went with those assets when they spun off. From an endpoint security perspective, they really had no channel. 90 per cent of the endpoint business was direct when I got here in January 2018, and what channel business there was was all transactional-type business.”
With the SSL certificate business gone, a new approach was needed with the cybersecurity assets and Myrick, who had been at Symantec-Veritas for almost 17 years, was brought in to oversee that.
“I was recruited to Comodo to establish a brand new channel,” Myrick said. “I was channel employee number one here.” Melih [Abdulhayoğlu, Comodo’s CEO] knew most endpoints are purchased through channel partners, that this is not a direct play, and that to grow and scale this business without having to build a huge sales organization, you need to build out a channel.”
Myrick began building a channel program, which is now being formally announced, although the certification components are still being built.
“We contacted Channeltivity about creating a new portal for us, with the idea being to automate as much as possible,” she said. “Some vendors offload things onto partners to make it easy for themselves, and we wanted automation to handle these things instead. So now we have a brand new portal.”
Myrick then reached back out to channel partners with whom she had worked in the past, and asked them what things they would want if they were designing a new program from scratch.
“In my prior role, a common complaint around security programs was that they were based on what the company wanted, so margins were squeezed,” she said. “I spent the period between January and April getting feedback from partners at different levels and different maturity stages, about what they would want from the program.”
The result is a program that does not have traditional metallic tiers, but rather three partner types: solution providers; managed service providers; and technology partners.
The solution provider track has three levels: distributor, strategic partners (which includes LARs like SHI) and regional partners.
“We have criteria to sign up strategic boutique partners, who are very niche, but with the expectation that we might be their only security vendor, or one of a couple, not one of like 20 at SHI,” Myrick said. “The expectation is they will be committed to us.”
The managed service provider track includes both MSPs and MSSPs, with the MSSPs being able to white-label Comodo to their customers.
The technology partner track has segments for OEMs, SIs and alliance partners. Myrick said that Comodo is selective about the number in the alliance group that they partner with.
“We see no point in getting a slew of ISV relationships,” she said. “We want to be very prescriptive.”
The philosophy of the program itself is to give the partners a lot of flexibility in how they define their relationship with Comodo.
“Starting out, I wanted to deliver a program that was very simple and easy,” Myrick stressed. “It starts with that automated onboarding process, and continues with what you want in the business model after that. Instead of us dictating to them ‘you must do this and that’ to attain levels and get benefits, they decide what their business model is and that determines what your margins are.”
For example, Comodo has almost finished their first certification, for Technical Services.
“If you want to perform Level 1 support yourself, you can check a box and get certified for this, and get more margin,” Myrick said. “As the program evolves, it will give them the choice of building out their own scorecard. If they just want to be a transactional partner through distribution, that’s fine. If they want to commit more to Comodo and do things like security analytics, for which we have a solution, they will be able to take additional certifications and receive additional margin and more incentive.”
The Technical Services certification program is scheduled for a for soft launch in April, followed by a general release in July. Professional Services is slated to be the next certification to roll out.
“We just started talking with partners who have a Professional Services capability about what they want and need for their programs around this, and what they want the ongoing training process to be,” Myrick indicated.
The degree of program benefits through elements like deal registration and sales and marketing enablement are tied to this self-selection process in the same way.
“We let the partner pick and choose the relationship they have with us, and reward them accordingly,” Myrick said.
Comodo had not previously used distribution, even for the SSL certificate business, but that has changed as well.
“ITarian now manages our MSP business for us,” Myrick said. “We then added SYNNEX, in what is a global agreement, but the primary focus for us with them is in the Americas – the U.S., Canada and Latin America. “Distribution will handle our transactional business for us. SYNNEX gives us access to thousands of their partners.”
Distribution will let Comodo offload support of the transactional partners, so they can focus on nurturing partners through the program who are more committed to the company.
“The numbers of partners will be based on partner type,” Myrick said. “While we will leverage distribution and get access to thousands of partners that way, from a strategic reseller perspective, we have six regions in the U.S. and two in Canada. With the regional partners, we want to focus on partnerships where we can add the most value to them and they to us. We will reward these ones who make a big commitment to us, who make us the one they lead with or one or one of a few. We are really looking for about five to seven of these partners in each region. We want to be very prescriptive.”