We haven’t met, but I’ve read a lot about you. I’ve used your company’s storage and security products for years, stretching back to well before the companies that made them were acquired by Symantec.
Sometimes I liked them.
I spend much of my time talking to the channel partners used by you, your competitors, and your business allies. I thought you might be interested in what some of the bigger ones have been telling me.
First, there’s nervousness in the channel, which of course is to be expected when a major supplier brings on new leadership. But also there is deep concern and not about the change, but more about the potential for lack of change. Communication between Symantec and its channel partners has not been good, and because of that the current message that Symantec will “stay the course” is seen as a negative.
Why? Because for a long time the channel has had little insight into what Symantec’s plans for them might be. They perceive very little support from Symantec, and are not at all confident about the direction in which Symantec’s channel strategy is going to go. The ones I have spoken see the new mantra as being “do more with less,” and cite recent reductions in channel support personnel as indications that Symantec may be reducing their commitment to the channel.
Under such circumstances, “business as usual” means problems for them.
Considering the VARs’ contribution to your revenue stream, I am sure you can agree this is not a good thing.
Want to fix things? The people I speak to feel they would get the best value if you did the following:
- Talk with the channel. Immediately institute a series of town hall meetings where the channel partners are the only audience. Let your VARs and SIs know what you’re thinking – particularly concerning cloud and virtualization – but also listen to what they have to say. Despite their historical reliance on a direct sales model, EMC now does this with significant success, and Dell is learning to do the same. These companies have learned to listen. You should too.
- Get rid of those product silos. It’s not just that your storage people don’t talk with the security people – quite often it is apparent that the storage people and the security people don’t even talk amongst themselves. A few of the development efforts have shown improvement here, but a fix for this hasn’t made it to the field yet.
- Integrate the channel-facing teams. At present you have too many sales managers, business dev managers, field support people and the like, just about all of whom are allied to brands or specific products. They are all there to work with the channel, but brand loyalties frequently put them at cross purposes with one another. Get them all reading off the same page, and make sure that page is a Symantec page and not just a brand page.
- Disintermediate the channel. Right now many VARs see too many people in their food chain (see items 2 and 3 above), each being compensated for every sale. It’s hard to inspire the channel when you only leave them five margin points. You are not the only company on their line cards, and in most cases the other guys offer substantially more margin than you do.
This would allow more focused, corporate-wide investment in the channel, would eliminate some of the compensation that all those people receive whatever the channel makes a sale, and would win back some margin points for your resellers. I can’t think of a better way to keep them happy and keep them active.
There is lots more of course, but for now this will have to do.
Steve, right now you are the CEO of many good brands. But wouldn’t it be much better to be the CEO of a consolidated Symantec?
Good luck with closing out the quarter,