Consistency: McAfee's Next Channel Goal

By Lawrence Walsh  |  Print this article Print


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New channel initiatives rolled out by the security vendor this week have been telegraphed for months. What they signify is McAfee’s commitment to improving its channel program. The next step needed, partners say, is consistency in execution.

McAfee channel leaders Alex Thurber and Fernando Quintero spent much of this week rolling out strategic initiatives designed to increase partner sales and profitability. It’s been a week of communicating to partners what McAfee is putting behind what has been deemed "2010: The Year of the Channel."

None of these changes—incumbency protection, team sales, easier access to market development funds and improved deal registration—should come as a surprise to anyone in or around the McAfee channel. Thurber and Quintero have been telegraphing these changes for months, and piloted many initiatives over the past two quarters.

The real story here is McAfee’s channel finally emerging from under the cloud of disorganization and inattention. Much of the initiatives launched by team Thurber/Quintero are works in progress. Nevertheless, the mere leadership they’re pouring into what’s been a void for much of the past three years is paying dividends with partners.

"The field engagement was the first thing that needed to change, and they did a very good job on that, particularly in the Western region. We hope to mirror that as we move to the other geographies in the U.S.," says Andy Welch, director of partner alliances at security integrator Accuvant.

Transparency, support and profitability are at the heart of nearly everything that Thurber and Quintero speak of these days. As Thurber told me last week, "We were making it so tough to do business with us. What partners are going to get from us is a cleaner experience and easier ability to do business with McAfee."

Among the initiatives being presented to partners in a series of live and virtual events are:

  • Margin Advantage: A collection of sales initiatives designed to make partner profitability more predictable and consistent.
  • Enablement Advantage: A series of online training resources for partners to become more technically proficient in McAfee products and earn certifications.
  • Solution Competencies and Partner Training Investments: Support for "Elite" partners to help make them more differentiated in the market based on technology specialization.
  • Migrating Secure Computing Partners: As of May 1, resellers of Secure Computing products will become part of the McAfee Security Alliance Partner Program, making it easier for them to acquire and bundle products across McAfee’s full portfolio.
  • Interlock Advantage: A program designed to help solution providers expand deals through attached sales. Interlock hinges on the ePolicy Orchestrator, the management console that can administer multiple McAfee and third-party security applications and appliances.

"The margins are already being dealt with in some of the changes being proposed and implemented. If these come to fruition as I expect, I think we will see a significant increase in the transactional margins in 2010, which will in turn drive more salespeople to make sure that McAfee is a key component to their success," Welch says.

Some McAfee resellers have expressed reservations about some of these initiatives, saying that they’re good only for Elite partners. For rank and file resellers, some VARs say, these programs amount to little progress.

Quintero is particularly fervent on McAfee’s commitment to partnership. He often points to the incumbency program he initiated last year as a prime example of how McAfee is helping partners retain customers and ensure continuity. Through incumbency protection, McAfee will penalize a reseller with lower margins if they sell into an account already serviced by another reseller. Likewise, McAfee’s co-teaming program is designed to aid partners with technical and sales assistance in capturing complex deals.

"The more you sell, the more we’ll ensure that you remain profitable," Quintero said in a conversation with Channel Insider. "We’ll continue to find new ways of ensuring and enhancing profitability and make more investments."

Deal registration and profitability protection are terms often bandied about by channel executives like being in favor of fresh air and potable water. While McAfee still has work to do on the mechanisms for selling across the portfolio and controlling margin erosion of commodity products, partners say the initiatives for cooperative selling and incumbency protection are working.

"We’re getting more involved with them on deals, and we’re being protected," says Mark Sollazo, president and CEO of security reseller SynerComm. "It’s not vapor. It’s real and it’s working."

McAfee’s channel program is far from perfect, and some partners say that communications could still use improvement. But the one thing that is clear is that Thurber and Quintero are putting words into action, breathing new life into a program that has fallen dormant. What the McAfee channel community is looking for next is sustained consistency. And that’s the underlying goal of Thurber and Quintero’s plan for 2010.

Lawrence Walsh Lawrence Walsh is editor of Baseline magazine, overseeing print and online editorial content and the strategic direction of the publication. He is also a regular columnist for Ziff Davis Enterprise's Channel Insider. Mr. Walsh is well versed in IT technology and issues, and he is an expert in IT security technologies and policies, managed services, business intelligence software and IT reseller channels. An award-winning journalist, Mr. Walsh has served as editor of CMP Technology's VARBusiness and GovernmentVAR magazines, and TechTarget's Information Security magazine. He has written hundreds of articles, analyses and commentaries on the development of reseller businesses, the IT marketplace and managed services, as well as information security policy, strategy and technology. Prior to his magazine career, Mr. Walsh was a newspaper editor and reporter, having held editorial positions at the Boston Globe, MetroWest Daily News, Brockton Enterprise and Community Newspaper Company.

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