Horrible and excruciating are two of the words that channel partners have used to describe dealing with vendor Symantec over the past six months as it worked to integrate acquisition Veritas’s ERP system with its own.

Among the problems? Two hour call center hold times, 14-step license key activation procedures, and no way to tell if an order had shipped or not.

While the acquisition was complete two years ago, it took the company more than 18 months to prepare for the integration. Even after all that work, the transition was still a nightmare for many partners.

Julie Parrish, Symantec’s vice president of the company’s global channel operation, has worked in crisis mode ever since, looking to fix the broken systems while at the same time rebuilding relationships damaged by the intense partner unhappiness.

“The partner community had a lot of trouble absorbing the changes,” she said. “The ease of doing business was not there.”

Now, she said, 80 percent of the issues have been resolved. And while things still aren’t perfect, they are getting closer.

“Hopefully, our partners are starting to see the results of those changes,” she said.

“Things have gotten much, much better in the last month and a half,” said Matt Scherocman, vice president of consulting services at PCMS IT Advisor Group, a Symantec partner based in Cincinnati. But the problems were “horrible, horrible, excruciating.”

“We were processing more orders in the first month” after the ERP systems were stitched together, said Parrish. “But the frustration level of partners was very high.”

One of the issues that irked partners was when Symantec asked them to enter every bit of customer data when all they wanted to do was activate the license key.

“They just wanted the key,” said Parrish. “They’d already paid $1,000 for it.”

And partners wanted to know why Symantec didn’t already have that information, she added. Actually, Symantec did have the information already, but it wasn’t organized in the new system.

“Because we pulled all the systems together, the information we have on you is not as neat and tidy as we would have liked it to be,” Parrish said. So Symantec was essentially getting partners to do that work by re-entering the information in order to get the license key.

Such problems are to be expected when any vendor does a major ERP system integration after an acquisition, said one Midwest technology consulting company that asked to remain anonymous.

“But getting any help out of Symantec is painful,” said a representative at the company. “Half the time people are on vacation, and they are not embracing of people who try to understand the system. So it has been a lot of trial and error.”

The representative said that when Symantec purchased Veritas the companies wanted all their channel support people to be generalists, an approach that didn’t work because of the sheer size of the multi-billion dollar company’s catalog.

“They are a good company, their products are solid,” she said. “But people don’t know where to get the information to help you.”

Still, she added, “I think it is getting a little bit better.”

Partners that had experienced many of the problems Parrish and others cited said that the issues were starting to be resolved.

“We initially ran into some roadblocks when they stitched the two ERP systems together,” said Jonathan Dambrot, a managing director of Prevalent Networks, an information security consulting practice based in Warren, N.J. “But recently it has gotten a lot better.”

Parrish said Symantec has added 150 agents to its support phone lines bringing hold times down from two hours to two minutes or less. Time to resolve issues has gone down from 20 minutes to five minutes, she said.

Further, the 14-step key activation process is now down to six steps. And the upgrade process has gone from 24 steps to seven.

Parrish has been in close touch with partners during this process of fixing the problems. A survey of partners revealed that “some small number said they were so frustrated that they switched to another vendor. But most said ‘I’m so frustrated with you but please, please, please hurry up and fix it.’” Parrish said.