On its continued march to a full channel program, Internet filtering vendor Websense unveiled the makings of a new partner program Aug. 14, employing what channel chief David Roberts calls “Channel 101.”

The program, rolling out over the next year, includes a core of the channel basics and fixes the vendor had been lacking, including renewal protection, technical support, a PRM (partner relationship management) application, market development funds, automated lead generation and deal registration. Websense also signed a distribution agreement with Ingram Micro.

The program will eventually automate basic operations, such as alerting partners when a customer contacts the vendor and when customers approach renewal, said Roberts, the San Diego company’s vice president of sales and channels.

“A lot of it has to do with making sure the processes are in place,” Roberts said. “Today it’s virtually all manual, and, while we have a lot of good practices from individual contributors, until we document it, it is inconsistent. If you had great channel account manager on the West Coast, you got all your renewals in, and she did it manually and hand-delivered it to partners. While it was great, it wasn’t practical.”

Roberts called the rollout of the partner program the second of three phases in a two-year march to a 100 percent channel operation after several years of operating a mixed direct/indirect strategy that saw too much channel conflict for the liking of resellers.

Click here for exclusive channel research from Amazon Consulting.

Phase 1 ended that channel conflict by compensating sales personnel for channel sales and reorienting them to work with the channel. Phase 2, which will roll out through the end of 2006 and should take a year to settle, sets the process in place, Roberts said. Phase 3 involves shifting the channel as Websense moves from being a Web filtering company to Internet security.

The agreement with Ingram will open Websense to the distributor’s 35,000 VARs as well as to Ingram’s training, enablement, marketing and drop-ship support. Going forward, the bulk of Websense’s channel marketing will go through Ingram, while Websense will handle campaigns built around its 100-or-so security specialist VARs.

The deal brings product and channel support to a broader audience than the company could serve on its own, said Leo Cole, Websense’s vice president of marketing.

The PRM application is still being finalized, executives said.

Websense will unveil package service offerings for partners sometime next year, executives said.

Partners have been supportive of Websense’s channel moves since Roberts joined the company in May and said they were enthused by the developments.

“Websense is on the attack, and I love it,” said Kevin West, of Klogix, in Brookline, Mass., a Websense reseller for five years. “They want to own the market. They have the best tech, but they need to continue to eat up share, and this is the way to do it. With Dave at the helm, if they can continue to add the technology to it, they can do it.”

West and others said the previous program left much of the work to proactive partners.

“It was a one-way street,” West said. “If you didn’t have partners asking for and looking for these things on their own, they would never get it.”

Automated processes and improved contact with resellers would activate partners, especially in the small and midsize business space, where VARs are too small to chase the vendor, West said.

The new program features three tiers—Platinum, Gold and Silver—each having its own corresponding benefits and requirements based not only on volume of business but also on VARs’ technical competency, business specialization, growth goals and customer satisfaction.

Websense also eliminated fees associated with membership.

The security vendor is training its sales personnel to view partners as customers that need to be prized and not as an extension of the sales force, Roberts said.