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Symantec has a problem, and it’s not the fact that channel chief
Julie Parrish resigned to join NetApp a few days before the company’s
channel event in Washington, D.C.

Fortunately, the
issues challenging Symantec are about the same that any major
technology company experiences after going on a series of acquisition


Right now, too many
partners from Symantec’s perspective are not selling enough products
across the company’s continually expanding portfolio. Instead, the
partners are still pretty much focused on selling the same products
they have been familiar with for years. The question confronting
Symantec is why does this current state of affairs exist and what is
the company prepared to do about it?


Nobly, Symantec is
assuming that the reason partners aren’t expanding their portfolio of
Symantec’s products is largely due to inattention from Symantec. To
remedy this situation, Symantec is breaking down the product portfolio
into five key solution segments that it hopes partners will find easier
to navigate. The five solution areas are security, infrastructure
operation, information risk and compliance, storage and business


Symantec partners can
also now get certified on products in any of these segments using the
exact same online courses that Symantec employees take. In addition,
Symantec is now also rolling out an online tool called SymBrain that
allows partners to basically plug in the name of products they
currently are including in a specific solution and then be informed
what additional Symantec products would complement that solution.


One can argue until
the cows come home just how much handholding Symantec partners actually
need. But for the same argument, let’s accept the fact that more
training and information can never be a bad thing.


What’s really unknown
is how many of the Symantec partners are already selling products from
other vendors in these adjacent areas. Many of the partners in the
Symantec program were essentially brought into the Symantec universe
along with whatever vendor Symantec acquired. How loyal they are to
Symantec is anybody’s guess. It stands to reason that most of them are
smart enough to know that if they sell storage, chances are good they
should be making money selling a complementary business continuity
solution. Maybe not all the partners are, but for sake of argument we
should acknowledge that most partners are reasonably intelligent about
how to make more money and serve their customers better.


If you assume that
Symantec’s challenge has more to do with loyalty than ignorance, the
real work facing Symantec is converting what amounts to the loyal
opposition among its channel partners. These partners like some aspect
of the Symantec proposition. They just have not been converted enough
to support the entire Symantec portfolio.


Some of that may have
to do with loyalty to another vendor. Some of that may have to do with
ignorance of the products. Some of that may have to do with a lack of
capital to investment in developing expertise in adjacent technology
areas. And some of that may have to do with the fact that Symantec has
not done a very good job of making it easy to sell its products as it
struggles to rationalize a large number of transaction systems
following all those acquisitions and mergers.


Symantec would argue
that it has market leading products in every space it enters. So we can
infer that Symantec has a lot of partners selling one or two
market-leading products in distinct specialty areas. Right now Symantec
thinks that more training and education is the answer to the problem.
But maybe the company should think about forgoing one multimillion
dollar acquisition to invest capital in directly helping solution
providers to expand their practices.


As we have seen with any number of vendors, including Oracle,
and Cisco Systems, there is no simple process by which a
vendor can magically expand its portfolio of products in the channel
via acquisition. It takes time and focus to get that done. Time to let
the natural process of partnering among the solution providers to play
out in the channel as a prelude to mergers and acquisitions in the
channel. And patience to focus on the field work needed to coach each
partner through the process of expanding their business to embrace new
products and opportunities.


there’s no script to follow that can make it all work overnight. As
history has shown more than once, the difference between success and
failure in these types of situations has a lot more to do with
relentless daily execution than any new channel program.


Mike Vizard is a
member of the Ziff Davis Enterprise Market Experts Team. He can be
reached at