Bringing in specialisations is a better way for Symantec to align with end customer demand
In April 2010, Symantec announced to its partner community that technology and solution specialisations were going to become the backbone of its future partner programme. The new programme would kick off from November 2010 and partners would have another twelve months to make the transition to the new programme. From the customer point of view the change was overdue.
Similar to most vendor channel programmes, partner levels are not necessarily mapped for the benefit of the end customer. A Symantec partner armed with a staff of technology accreditations and with a title of platinum, gold or silver doesn’t necessarily have an end user’s open invitation to walk in unless the benefits of working with them are also equally transparent.
Symantec’s announcement of eight technology solution choices and one market specialisation for its channel partners to qualify from is a step in the direction of improving end customer recognition. By end 2011 partners would have aligned themselves with any or multiple of the nine solution and market specialisations helping end customers map themselves to the most suitable partners. Since customers are looking for solutions rather than technology, a partner specialised in a particular solution will be better mapped to a prospective end customer.
Being sensitive to the change management issue involved in the process, Symantec has not made the transition for its partners an uphill one. Specialisation adoption is meant to be an evolutionary process rather than one based on a defined cut-off point.
Previous partner accreditations will be valid into the new programme and training costs have been further reduced or waived altogether for the partner depending on the chosen mode of vendor training. To improve the playing field for its partners in the market Symantec will withdraw its team of consultants and wants the partners to fill the gap into 2012.
“We announced way back in April 2010, we were transitioning the vast majority of our consulting away from being Symantec delivered to being partner delivered,” explains Paul Lyden, Director EMEA partner programmes. “We are working very closely with them to make sure they understand where they are.”
Symantec’s structure of specialisations allows partners to showcase their expertise in a customer facing manner. Partners qualify as competent in a specialisation when they have a track record of solution delivery, have minimum number of certified consultants and certified technology staff on board and build a business plan that is aligned with Symantec’s own go-to-market strategy.
Says Lyden: “Master specialisation is a deeper level of skill and knowledge for a specialist partner to have. It’s about giving our customer confidence that there is a partner who is as skilled as Symantec in delivering Symantec technology.” Symantec expects its current breed of partners to transition away from a licensing based business model to one built around solution specialisation.
Symantec’s new engagement with its partners is therefore two-fold. By encouraging them to move towards solution specialisation it believes partners can become more aligned with end customer expectations and therefore move up the value chain. If partners are better aligned with the end customer, it also means Symantec’s solutions will sell more easily and therefore become firmly embedded within a partner’s portfolio usually consisting of alternative vendor solutions.
“It is about helping our partners articulating their value rather than us necessarily doing it for them,” clarifies Lyden.
A partner’s success in the market is dependent on their ability to sell their value and create their brand. The challenge for Symantec is to grow their business within the business model of the partner rather than change the partner’s business model. “How can we build more of Symantec into more of their conversations with more of their customers,” is how Lyden deliberates the matter.
The number of partners that Symantec develops along the specialisation route is also important. If they are too many, competition will drive down the prices and erode the margins. If there are too few, Symantec may lose out on market opportunity. The vendor is currently placing bigger bets on fewer partners with better return on investment expected all around.
What are the benefits for partners that go down the master specialisation route? These include priority listing on partner locators and presales consulting services, opportunity registration, priority access to Symantec consultants, lead generation, competitive information, licensing renewal alerts, subsidised training, volume rebates and others.
Late 2011 and into 2012, Symantec will initiate its value added distributor programme. Since the vendor is committed to a two-tier channel structure, distributors will need to support the volume based reseller partners while VARs transition into solution specialisation and master specialisation as their go-to-market value differentiation. The software licensing model is a reselling one which generates partner margins at the point of sale and this will be supported by the VADs.
Symantec has also created a small and medium business offering which is lighter and with a lower price point. Customers in this market segment have a choice of a richer but more expensive solution version or one which is more economical but with limited versatility.
In 2012, Symantec also plans to roll out its dot-cloud platform and solution for its specialist partners. Licenses and delivery platforms will be provided to them at no initial cost and partners pay after end customer activation and deployment. For partners wanting to generate a higher return on investment from their relationship with Symantec, the new solution specialisation programme is an initiative taking both partners in the same direction. Reflects Lyden on this aspiration: “We want to get deeper into the value proposition that our partners take to the customer.”
Symantec partner criteria and benefits
Requirements for channel partners
– Completion of partner programme application and acceptance
– Minimum solution specialisation requirements: Two specialisations for Platinum, One for Gold and Silver
– Participation in joint marketing activities to promote Symantec relationship
– Achievement of opportunity closure revenue targets: $0.2-0.3million for Platinum and $0.1 million for Gold and Silver
– Annual rolling business plan in conjunction with Symantec partner account manager
– Monthly sales pipeline and forecasting report
Requirements for Master Specialisation partners
– Member of Symantec partner programme
– Compliance with solution specialisation
– Demonstrated proof of practice in the specialisation area
– Effective consulting services practice across engagement lifecycle: sales, scope, statement of work, delivery
– Members certified as Authorised Symantec Consultants are part of the team
– Members certified in the specialised area
– Submit business plan and capabilities assessment
– Receive endorsement from Symantec channel manager and agree to terms and conditions
Benefits of Master Specialisation
– Differentiated listing for Symantec presales support or post sales consulting
– Priority listing of Master Specialist on partner locator
– Design and implementation assistance from Symantec Consultants
– Access to partner assist advisory guides
– Access to Symantec consulting services tools
– Advanced technical support beyond partner level entitlement
– Participation in opportunity registration program
– Contribution to advancement through partner programme levels
– Logo to communicate expertise and other marketing support