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James Hanley’s address to Computer Associates International Inc. partners at CA’s Partner Symposium this week was shy on details.

Hanley, CA’s senior vice president of worldwide partner sales, touched on broad goals for the software maker’s indirect channel and brushed lightly over the areas of improved service and the next steps to be taken. He said little about program updates.

It didn’t seem to matter, however, to partners, most of whom, when questioned, remained focused on the improvements CA has made in the past year to position itself for an aggressive channel approach.

“It isn’t just vaporware, He’s talking about things we’re seeing in the field,” said Joe Young, president of Global Data Systems Inc., a managed services security provider in Pembroke, Mass. “When people ask me ‘what’s the difference between CA now and CA five years ago,’ I tell them it’s that the infrastructure is in place now. Business development, marketing, it’s there now. Before it was just words.”

Click here to read about CA’s name change and new strategy.

In the past 12 months, CA has restructured its direct sales model to reduce channel conflict and unveiled its ESP (Enterprise Solution Provider) program, which offers high-end VARs, consultants and solution providers pre-qualified sales lead referrals and other benefits.

It also introduced field-based Partner Advocate teams to develop business plans and marketing and sales initiatives, and created an SMB (small and midsize business) specialist track to develop opportunities in the SMB sector.

Among the topics Hanley touched on this week at the company’s CA World conference were: better defined and segmented partner relationships, deal registration programs for enterprise VARs, a Best Practices library for partner reference, revised policies for Market Development Fund disbursements, a new Managed Service Provider framework due by January, and improved distribution to bring solutions to market sooner.

CA is also updating its partner execution strategy, which Hanley acknowledged has been a weak point in CA’s channel. Improvements include aligning its global operations team to support each partner’s line of business, better automation across tools and reporting, and standardized partner account plans to ensure consistent profitable revenue growth.

Read details here about CA’s full-protection software suite for SMBs.

CA’s channel business, which accounts for about 10 percent of revenue, is already growing at double the rate of its direct sales business and should reach between 20 and 30 percent of the software maker’s revenue in the next decade, said Jeff Clarke, CA’s chief operating officer.

Most of the details, partners said, would need to be filled in over the next few days.

“The best thing they’ve done in the past year is to define the programs; they added focus that wasn’t there in the past,” said Alan Dubla, president of Phoenix-based ADT Computer Solutions, a CA reseller to SMBs. “But by finally saying this is what the direct [sales force] does and this is what the channel does, they’ve gained traction in the market. It’s reduced a lot of apprehension among resellers.”