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While having leadership positions in multiple technology
segments would seem like a good thing, it creates a problem for Symantec in
that it’s increasingly difficult to succinctly classify Symantec as a whole. Is
it a security company? Is it a storage company? Is an information lifecycle
company? Is it a business process management company? The answer is all of the
above, and that doesn’t make for a good elevator pitch, and it certainly
doesn’t make for creating holistic channels.”How do we secure and manage information wherever the device
against the number of threats? The common thread is information,” Salem
says. “Our job is to help customers find information and categorize it.”

The latest Symantec earnings report tells a great tale of how the vendor has
nearly fully recovered from the operational and product missteps of the last
several years. The financials show the security and storage vendor buoyed by
partner security sales to the SMB market, a segment that Big Yellow dominates.

As Symantec continues to push new products ranging from its
endpoint security to storage management to workflow software, its executives
and channel team are urging partners not to lose focus and specialize in
products where they can have the most success.

“It’s a lion’s share game. Our channel strategy is helping the partners sell
what makes sense,” says Rick Hoffman, senior director of VAR
channel sales. “Are they going to sell the entire portfolio? Some may. But for
many folks, it’s about finding that next solution that makes sense.”

Segmentation and specialization in channel programs are
nothing new. Companies such as Microsoft and Cisco have long advocated
specialization in either technology sets or market segments as a means for
concentrating partners to earn a higher return on their sales efforts, avoiding
intrachannel conflict and penetrating vertical segments.

What’s different about the Symantec approach is that it
reflects the fractured nature of the company that has spent more than $15
billion over the last five years acquiring companies that range in technology
from storage management to configuration management to advanced security. The
acquisitions have also changed the composition of Symantec from one of the
largest software security vendors in the world to the fourth largest software
vendor in the world.

“My predecessor [John Thompson] built this company from $600
million to $6 billion. Our focus on information is not to get bigger, but be
more relevant. Scale is good, but relevance is more important,” CEO
Enrique Salem told solution providers at the recent Symantec Partner Engage
event in Orlando, Fla.

Relevance is something Symantec struggles with in its
messaging and market positioning. McAfee and tertiary rivals—Sophos, Kaspersky
Lab, AVG—are nipping away at its traditional security software and antivirus
base. CA and EMC are challenging Symantec’s
lucrative backup software business. And a future battle is brewing over
configuration and network management, of which Symantec is a major player
through its Altiris acquisition.

Salem and his
team do not shy away from this dilemma, but don’t necessarily address it head
on. At the Partner Engage event, the Symantec team made several references to
their strength of the company’s portfolio in managing and protecting
information wherever it resides, and that they have the products that can
provide security and protection at every step of information use. But the vast
differences in products and the expertise needed for selling and implementing
various solutions dictate segmentation and focus.

“Instead of being all things across the portfolio … I would
rather you focus on the things that you are experts in. I would rather have
folks that are more knowledgeable in fewer things than a little bit of
knowledge in a lot of things,” Salem
said.

One Symantec partner that understands the need for gradual
expansion within the portfolio is ITS Partners of Grand Rapids, Mich.
Originally an Altiris partner that focused exclusively on security
configuration management, ITS is gradually adopting Symantec’s endpoint
security products that mesh well with its core competency.

“Don’t bite off more than you can chew,” says Chuck Hegarty,
ITS’ vice president of business development and alliances. “We want to be a
great endpoint security partner, and we’re going to get certified in our sweet
sport.”

While Steve Morton, the company’s vice president of product
market, says an increasing amount of Symantec’s and its partners revenue will
come from cross-selling products from the entire Symantec portfolio, Americas
channel chief Randy Cochran says a temperate approach to product adoption will
ensure partners maintain their relevancy in the eyes of their customers.