RSA's Channel Balancing Act

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print


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Eight months after being acquired by EMC, the security giant is working to leverage the best of each company's channel program to help the other without actually combining the programs, according to RSA's channel chief.

RSA's senior management hired Michael Ross as channel chief in October 2005 with a simple directive: to mold the company's channel program to be similar to the successful one he helped create at Nokia.

With that in mind Ross's input into RSA's program included building a dedicated channel team with more resources for recruitment and training and a higher level of integration with the field sales organization. The plan proved successful. Ross said that last year the number of deal registrations was up and the number of solution partners increased.

Eight months after Ross joined RSA, Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC acquired the security giant for about $2.1 billion. Since then, Ross' focus has shifted to also include addressing partner concerns about the change. And he's also looking at how RSA's channel partners can take advantage of new opportunities brought by the acquisition.

"We've done a good job of addressing partner concerns about EMC," Ross said. For example, Ross said he has assured partners that EMC and RSA's channel programs will remain distinct from each other.

"We aren't looking at combining the programs," he said. "But we are asking if there are other benefits from either program that the other partners can use. The first quarter this year is a feeling-out process for that."

Now the organizations are looking at opportunities to cross-collaborate, Ross said. For example, he said, on the commercial side of the business RSA is encouraging partners to build partnerships with EMC field salespeople, and if EMC salespeople have a sales opportunity, they are relying on channel partners in addition to the RSA sales team.

"We are bringing numerous leads to channel partners that EMC has been able to create," he said.

And the combination of products and sales approaches from both entities brings RSA closer to the security evolution articulated by RSA President Art Coviello at the RSA conference in San Francisco earlier in February. Coviello told attendees that the days of single point products for security will soon be over. Instead, customers will be looking to partners to provide a full solution.

"If you are a single solution vendor you are not going to be around in two or three years," said Ross, echoing the sentiment. "Resellers are going to look to buy full solutions from a single vendor."

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Ross added that RSA is working to make all its point products best of breed to create an even more compelling solution for partners and customers.

"One of our channel goals is to become a best of breed channel program, and RSA's Labs has always dedicated a solid percentage of revenues to research," he said. "There are products we have in the early stages now that we can accelerate and get to best of breed."

And while EMC is known for its recent acquisition spending spree—25 companies in the last five years—Ross said the company may not continue to be that aggressive. However, "EMC/RSA will continue to look to any necessary acquisitions to fill in that portfolio of products."

Looking ahead at market changes that RSA partners can leverage, Ross said that compliance is a great opportunity.

"These new compliance regulations are a great door opener, which walks you into all the solutions you sell," he said. "One of our goals for this year is to use the compliance umbrella to highlight solutions.

"That's what we've heard from the channel. Give us solutions that meet specific industry requirements, and we can go out and start selling."

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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