Symantec, and specifically its channel chief, Julie Parrish, operate with the novel idea that it should be easy for VARs to sell a vendor’s wares.

The security vendor announced this week it was removing the coursework requirements attached to its sales and technical certifications and would began making all of the tutorials and study guides available free and online. Tests would also be free and online, making certifications “free and easy” for all but a minority of partners who insist on classroom preparation, the company said.

“The goal should be to pass the test, not to sit in a classroom,” said Parrish, vice president of global channel sales and strategy at Symantec, in an interview last week with The Channel Insider. “If you can pass the test, you understand the strategy, you understand the architecture and you can integrate it. That is all we ask of partners.”

Parish is trying to engage more of the ecosystem already selling her company’s product line, but outside the partner community. She estimates there are some 200,000 VARs selling Symantec worldwide and only 60,000 of them registered partners.

“If they’re already selling they can probably pass that test,” she said. “If we can make it as cheap and easy to be in the program by removing these roadblocks, we can engage them and get them selling more.”

Technicians will be able to take an assessment and certification test online, and if they pass, they’re done. If not, they have resources to prep for multiple tries, including the failing test results, tool kits, study guides and online instruction. If they insist on a classroom experience, it’s still available.

Previously, required courses cost between $150 and $200, not to mention the expense of travel and lost time required to get technicians to classes.

VARs have long pleaded with vendors to make certifications easier, cheaper and quicker, but few have listened. Some, such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard, have come part of the way, working with distributors, such as Arrow Electronics, to pack multiple certifications into a single week, but the fix seems more like a workaround than a solution.

Symantec began tinkering with training and certifications in July when it announced that certifications would be product-specific and not tied to solutions or marketing strategies.