After completing the acquisition of backup vendor Veritas Software, security vendor Symantec found itself with 20 channel programs to manage 60,000 channel partners in 37 countries.

Something had to change.

In March, the vendor launched a channel initiative that converged those 20 programs into a single plan that recognizes partner value in addition to how much they sell, said Julie Parrish, vice president of Symantec’s Global Channel Office. In addition, the vendor combined nine Web portals into a single PartnerNet site.

In simplifying the existing partner programs into a unified offering, Symantec wanted to make sure partners are recognized for “value behavior,” Parrish said. Value includes such things as technical expertise, market focus and geographic strategy.

The program has four membership levels, starting with Registered up through Silver, Gold and Platinum. Partners move to higher levels by adding technical specialization in such areas as consumer products, system and storage management, data management, and security.

Symantec will keep track of partner training and marketing activity to determine how partners get compensated, Parrish said.

“What you’ll see over time is we’ll actually be launching a points-based system to track that,” she said, adding that the point system should go into effect in January 2007.

PCMSDatafit, a Symantec partner in Cincinnati, isn’t waiting for the point system to go into effect. The solution provider already moved from the Silver to the Gold partner level by boosting its Veritas solutions business, said Matt Scherocman, director of PCMS’ IT adviser group.

“We never had the relationship with Veritas before to make investments there,” said Scherocman.

The investment already is paying dividends under the new Symantec channel program and includes an account manager assigned to PCMS.

“When we need something, we call,” he said. “We get tremendously good support out of the Symantec partner program.”

Despite the changes, Parrish said the vendor left some aspects of the program untouched. Product authorizations, discounts and other membership benefits remain the same, she said.

“It’s been critical to our partners that we maintain their business flow without disruptions,” she said.

Click here to read more about Symantec’s acquisition of Veritas.

The goal of the changes was to simplify the structure and de-emphasize volume as a partnership performance metric. Symantec, as most other IT vendors, traditionally has rewarded partners based on volume, but the trend in the last couple of years has been to recognize other partner contributions.

An increasing number of vendors, including Hewlett-Packard and IBM, are recognizing value in partner compensation in addition to volume. IBM, for instance, compensates partners for registering leads and helping to negotiate sales even if someone else ultimately closes the sale.

Parrish said rewarding value has been a topic of discussion in the channel for years, but the trick has been to figure out how to acknowledge the value contribution. That’s how the point system came into being, she said.

In overhauling its channel offerings, Symantec kept in touch with partners, using their feedback to help form the changes, Parrish said.

“Partners are looking for a predictable, profitable way to engage with you, and that is what I’m trying to provide,” she said.

To earn partner loyalty, she said, Symantec recognizes it has to be easy to with, work hard to solve support issues and fix channel conflict should it ever come up.

The revamped program kicked off in all 37 countries covered by Symantec channel partners, she said. The partner portals, which include sites for lead registration, quote requests and training, were launched simultaneously with country-specific content, she said.