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A lot of goodwill seemed to come out of CA’s annual event in Las Vegas this week. Promises were made and partners seemed content.

Executives at the Islandia, N.Y., software maker vowed during CA World to work with the channel, promising to push the company’s percentage of indirect sales to 20 percent in the immediate future from a current estimate of 10 percent.

To accomplish this, CA now compensates its direct sales representatives an extra percentage for working with partners.

Salespeople receive 115 percent of their base compensation for including partners in a deal and 130 percent if that deal is for enterprise-class products.

“We are never going back,” James Hanley, CA’s senior vice president of worldwide partner services, told The Channel Insider. He was referring to the company’s previous direct-sales strategy.

George Kafkarkou, CA’s senior vice president of SMB (small and midsize business) and consumer sales, said the company’s executive team “finally gets the channel.”

It’s about time.

CA has stumbled along in the channel for years, never quite getting it right. At times, reading the reports coming out of Las Vegas, it was as if I were reading about a company that for the first time had decided to pursue a channel strategy.

Perhaps that is what CA executives want us to believe. Perhaps in talking up the work they have done in recent months to embrace the channel, they hope we will forget the mistakes of the past.

For instance, executives talked about the company’s Enterprise Solution Partner program, which offers partners benefits such as qualified sales leads, as if it were a new initiative. But the program has existed for years and was simply neglected.

That the vendor is reviving this worthy program is a good sign.

Read more here about Computer Associates’ change in name and strategy.

Another good sign that CA understands partners’ needs will be when it ends a program that requires VARs and integrators to buy SMB products, not from distributors, but from CDW Inc., PC Mall Inc. and Inc. These companies sell high quantities at low prices through their Web storefronts, and effectively compete with the very VARs and integrators that CA expects to source product from them.

I understand CA will end this bone-headed practice after the first of the year, and will instead allow partners to buy the products, which include anti-virus, backup and data migration software, from distributors. Partners will continue to have the alternative of downloading the software from CA’s site.

Why it will take until next year to change this policy is a good question, especially since sources tell me it has proven rather unsuccessful.

But this is CA, so let’s not push our luck.

Click here to read more about CA’s new professions of commitment to the channel.

To its credit, the company said a lot of the right things during CA World in regards to the channel, and partners who attended reacted positively. Presumably, partners who only a few months ago were running into competition at customer accounts from CA’s direct sales representatives stayed home.

To those partners, relief is on the way. The vendor’s new compensation structure for direct sales representatives should bring the practice of trying to steal partner accounts to a halt. No tune sounds finer to a sales rep than the prospect of making more money, so CA made the absolute right decision here.

The company’s channel team seems to have received an infusion of energy from the hiring of Hanley, who joined CA in May. Hanley, who had worked with the channel at EMC Corp., appears to have a good handle on how to deal with partners.

At CA World, the company unveiled a marketing slogan to promote its redefined vision: “Believe Again.”

As it relates to the channel, a more apropos slogan might have been, “We really mean it this time.”

Pedro Pereira is a contributing editor for The Channel Insider. He covered the channel from 1996 to 2001, took a break, and now he’s back. He can be reached at