Symantec Needs to Focus on Relentless Execution

By Michael Vizard  |  Print this article Print


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Problems at the security and storage software giant may be caused by an endless series of acquisitions that never give the channel time to adopt new products. Rather than buying another company, Symantec may consider taking a breather and investing more in its channel.

Symantec has a problem, and it’s not the fact that channel chief Julie Parrish resigned to join NetApp a few days before the company’s channel event in Washington, D.C.

Fortunately, the issues challenging Symantec are about the same that any major technology company experiences after going on a series of acquisition binges.


Right now, too many partners from Symantec’s perspective are not selling enough products across the company’s continually expanding portfolio. Instead, the partners are still pretty much focused on selling the same products they have been familiar with for years. The question confronting Symantec is why does this current state of affairs exist and what is the company prepared to do about it?


Nobly, Symantec is assuming that the reason partners aren’t expanding their portfolio of Symantec’s products is largely due to inattention from Symantec. To remedy this situation, Symantec is breaking down the product portfolio into five key solution segments that it hopes partners will find easier to navigate. The five solution areas are security, infrastructure operation, information risk and compliance, storage and business continuity.


Symantec partners can also now get certified on products in any of these segments using the exact same online courses that Symantec employees take. In addition, Symantec is now also rolling out an online tool called SymBrain that allows partners to basically plug in the name of products they currently are including in a specific solution and then be informed what additional Symantec products would complement that solution.


One can argue until the cows come home just how much handholding Symantec partners actually need. But for the same argument, let’s accept the fact that more training and information can never be a bad thing.


What’s really unknown is how many of the Symantec partners are already selling products from other vendors in these adjacent areas. Many of the partners in the Symantec program were essentially brought into the Symantec universe along with whatever vendor Symantec acquired. How loyal they are to Symantec is anybody’s guess. It stands to reason that most of them are smart enough to know that if they sell storage, chances are good they should be making money selling a complementary business continuity solution. Maybe not all the partners are, but for sake of argument we should acknowledge that most partners are reasonably intelligent about how to make more money and serve their customers better.


If you assume that Symantec’s challenge has more to do with loyalty than ignorance, the real work facing Symantec is converting what amounts to the loyal opposition among its channel partners. These partners like some aspect of the Symantec proposition. They just have not been converted enough to support the entire Symantec portfolio.


Some of that may have to do with loyalty to another vendor. Some of that may have to do with ignorance of the products. Some of that may have to do with a lack of capital to investment in developing expertise in adjacent technology areas. And some of that may have to do with the fact that Symantec has not done a very good job of making it easy to sell its products as it struggles to rationalize a large number of transaction systems following all those acquisitions and mergers.


Symantec would argue that it has market leading products in every space it enters. So we can infer that Symantec has a lot of partners selling one or two market-leading products in distinct specialty areas. Right now Symantec thinks that more training and education is the answer to the problem. But maybe the company should think about forgoing one multimillion dollar acquisition to invest capital in directly helping solution providers to expand their practices.


As we have seen with any number of vendors, including Oracle, IBM and Cisco Systems, there is no simple process by which a vendor can magically expand its portfolio of products in the channel via acquisition. It takes time and focus to get that done. Time to let the natural process of partnering among the solution providers to play out in the channel as a prelude to mergers and acquisitions in the channel. And patience to focus on the field work needed to coach each partner through the process of expanding their business to embrace new products and opportunities.


Unfortunately, there’s no script to follow that can make it all work overnight. As history has shown more than once, the difference between success and failure in these types of situations has a lot more to do with relentless daily execution than any new channel program.


Mike Vizard is a member of the Ziff Davis Enterprise Market Experts Team. He can be reached at michael.vizard@ziffdavisenterprise.com.



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