EMC’s security arm, RSA, has appointed a new channel chief, Christopher Clinton, to head its global channel operations. Clinton joins RSA from Citrix, where he helped build the company from a $550 million one-product vendor into a $1 billion purveyor of many different products. eWEEK Channel Insider’s Jessica Davis spoke with Clinton about his experiences at Citrix and his plans for RSA’s channel program, as well as with Michael Ross, RSA’s area vice president of the Americas channel. The following are excerpts of the conversations.
Channel Insider: Does your appointment represent a change in direction for RSA’s channel program?
Clinton: I wouldn’t necessarily call it a change in direction. Rather it is about adding more channel strength to an already well-established RSA SecureWorld channel program and bringing more of a worldwide consistency and approach to how RSA is working with channel partners across the globe.
My role in a worldwide capacity is not in conflict with Michael Ross, who runs the Americas or with the AMEA [Africa, Middle East and Asia] or Latin America geographic heads.
My primary responsibility is driving global consistency in global partner strategies that will allow for the variations within North America or AMEA or whatever geography you are in to meet local geographic market requirements but also to allow RSA to have one consistent channel program. We want it 70 percent consistent worldwide allowing for 30 percent different, depending on needs of that geographical organization and the goals they are striving for.
Channel Insider: What is it now if the goal is 70 percent?
Clinton: We have lots of very, very good ground work and consistency in our programs that we are using to roll out new products to market. I use the EnVision product line as the example. We want to be able to bring that product through the channel in a consistent manner so that we have a program for a select group of partners that will meet the criteria of reselling that product along with the selling and positioning the technical training.
So we are talking about everything from training, selective channel recruitment and profiling all the way through to channel enablement, channel readiness as well as incentives and the back-end and front-end rebates to make these partners successful in selling the EnVision product line.
That is one example.
Channel Insider: One of RSA’s recent challenges and EMC’s recent challenges is for both to take advantage of opportunities presented by EMC’s acquisition of RSA. Michael Ross spoke about that to Channel Insider back in February.. How do you ensure that happens going forward?
Clinton: From being the new guy on the block and understanding some of the other channel programsEMC Velocity, VMwarethere is a great opportunity for much better collaboration across all three channel organizations to leverage tools and best practices that will enable respective channel partners to drive more profitability and better solutions, with the ultimate result of even better customer satisfaction than what we are seeing today.
My role is twofold. I am not only going to be taking a look at best practices from each of the regions within RSA. There are different things that each of these channel heads are doing in their respective geographies that with a little bit tweaking can be leveraged by some of the other geographies, and that same principal is going to hold true for what EMC is doing with Velocity and what VMware is doing with their channel.
I would envision within six to eight months after me being part of RSA that we are going to see a lot of really big collaboration across the channel teams and making our program teams truly benefit the partners.
Channel Insider: Would you put combining channel teams on table?
Ross: It’s not on the table right now. We think there are collaborative touch points between the two programs where there are opportunities for existing EMC resellers, Velocity resellers, to become SecureWorld resellers and vice versa. We want to start on that road first, the gradual road.
We do have some overlap with resellers, but it surely is a small percentage. To combine the programs I don’t think would be advantageous for resellers. It’s about what we can do for the resellers. It’s not a matter of us combining programs for the benefit of us. Combining today won’t make sense. We are starting to see some of [the other programs’] online tools, marketing templates. There are pieces of that we are going to leverage.
Clinton: There’s a really great opportunity for us to really take a look at the types of partners in the programs and the types of enablement strategies and selling tactics that are deployed in the respective programs.
We could bring together a really robust new value-selling model for RSA SecureWorld partners as well as some of the EMC Velocity partners. There’s a great opportunity as a channel-focused organization, which is one of the primary reasons I joined RSA. I would have never accepted a role at any other kind of an organization unless they had 100 percent channel focus and all of their strategies and go-to-market activities were being worked through the channel. That’s my background having been at Citrix, growing them from a $550 million company up to $1 billion, and that was going through indirect channels. That same opportunity exists for me to be a major team player in working with the channel and taking RSA to that $1 billion revenue mark.
Channel Insider: Speaking of Citrix, can you tell me some of the best practices you will bring from there into this new role?
Clinton: We are going to get a good understanding of the types of channel partners that we have in our program today and the business models we are operating under so we can align our programs to meet their business models. There are a lot of supposed channel companies that build programs and they don’t meet the business model of the channel partnersthey meet the business model of the vendor. And that doesn’t work. That is where you are going to create a lot of inherent channel conflict.
At Citrix we understood who our channel was in each of our geographies, horizontals and verticals. We looked at partners in terms of services versus product orientation versus solutions orientation.
At RSA we are going to have all our partners profiled so as we build and bring to market new RSA products, [we’ll have] all the appropriate current channels up to speed, enabled and ready to sell those products.
We will also have the recruitment to fill the areas where we know we may have some geographic inadequacies in terms of channel compatibility and fill those with the correct channel partners. We are going to be looking for the correct channel partners, and we are going to be putting together programs to benefit that partner rather than the vendor.
Channel Insider: When you talk about geographic inadequacies, do you see any areas filled with opportunity geographically?
Clinton: There aren’t inadequacies with the capacity and coverage of the RSA channel. Let’s say for example we identified a profile of what a successful EnVision reseller would look like. But when we go into our existing channel base in, say, Boston, there may be a chance that we don’t have somebody who fits the profile. That would mean we would have an opportunity to selectively recruit partners in that geographic location so we can meet the customer needs.
Ross: We are always looking to recruit but, as Chris said, we are looking to profile the right resellers. Channel managers have to shape requirements to recruit resellers and to churn resellers that shouldn’t be in the program. That usually happens by natural attrition anyway. What Chris is talking about is making sure our channel program SecureWorld matches what our real channel management by territory strategy.
Channel Insider: Were there categories of partners you added to the Citrix program?
Clinton: You have to ask what are the go-to-market opportunities for various new types of channel partners that need to be brought into an organization. The best way to answer that is that Citrix was a one-trick pony with Presentation Server, and then obviously to get to that $1 billion mark we did a lot of acquisitions and brought a lot of new products to market.
With that we needed to create specific channel programs targeted to types of partners capable of selling and doing the entire implementation. Following one acquisition, we had to put together an SI [system integrator] program, two ISV [independent software vendor] programsone for software and one for hardware. We also had to implement a new segment in Europe called a managed consulting partnermini-system integrators that operate throughout Europe. The requirement and program benefits associated with those needed to match that business model.
It was outside of standard Platinum, Gold and Silver tiers. We can’t just grade partners on how much of our product they sell on a yearly basis. There are a lot of other dials you need to track on different species of channel partners based on the types of products they are selling.
Channel Insider: At first glance at RSA, does anything jump out as new categories to be added?
Clinton: There are a few areas that I will be pursing, but none I can talk about right now. For me the opportunity at RSA right now is to bring more product through the channel. It is a really big opportunity, and I think the channel population is going to be able to really sink their teeth into a lot more to really build their business around RSA solutions.
Channel Insider: Is there a time frame goal in terms of making decisions about adding new categories?
Clinton: I have some quick goals I want to achieve, and obviously those are around something that I’ll be referring to as our Worldwide Channel Profiling Project. That’s something I’m going to embark on fairly quickly. I’m with Michael Ross next week and with some of the other geo channel heads over the course of the next month. That will be the driver of any new types of categories or go-to-market strategies that we will be able to test pilot in certain geographies based on the channel population that we have. So you’ll start to see some things along those lines.
I hope to have the channel profiling completed in three months so I can identify where we have the opportunities to bring some of these products to market and sort through types of channel partners that we currently have and the types of channel partners that we are going to need to involve.
You have to remember too, this goes back to being collaborative with EMC as well. We are going to need to make sure we have appropriate education materials so that channel partners in the respective partner programs are aware of some of things that are happening in the other programs so that if there is an opportunity, as Michael mentioned.
Channel Insider: Are there any other changes you have in mind for RSA’s channel program?
Clinton: I have a bunch of ideas, but only being on here for a week I don’t want to start talking about those until after I get my sea legs under me and am in complete agreement with Michael and the other geo channel heads.
A lot of what I’m going to be doing is being program strategist for RSA corporate. We are going to be a service arm to Michael and other geo channel heads so they can focus on increasing revenue generation of the channel. I’m going to be working very closely with Michael to fill whatever his needs are and tweak programs and incentives as appropriate. In the end it is all about increasing the revenue-generating capacity of the channel.