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Symantec reassures African partners

by Stuart Wilson, Thursday 7 August 2008

The repercussions of Symantec COO Enrique Salem’s recent anti-channel comments at a US financial analysts’ meeting continue to reverberate around the world. Symantec’s African operation has scotched rumours that the security giant planned to build direct relationships with large accounts.

Symantec’s channel commitment had come under intense scrutiny after Salem’s comments, which suggested that the vendor planned to disintermediate the role of partners in servicing enterprise customers. Symantec Africa has even had to issue a statement refuting the suggestion that the vendor’s channel commitment is waning at the top of the customer pyramid.

Mark Smissen, commercial manager for Africa at Symantec, has reiterated the fact that Symantec remains a channel-led company and did not plan to take high value deals direct.

Smissen attributes the channel fears about their future role as a ‘misconception’, claiming that the confusion has come about as a result of the fact that Symantec acquired several large vendors in recent years, some of which had a direct approach to dealing with customers.

"Year on year, Symantec has increased headcount and investment in our channel both at EMEA and at country level," said Smissen. Symantec maintains a two-tier distribution strategy allowing its tier one partners to fulfil enterprise contracts directly with Symantec to streamline the process for its customers and partners, according to the statement.

Additionally, Smissen said that Symantec has not made any compensation, discount or program changes that would incentivise a customer one way or the other or take business from its channel partners. From a small to medium business enterprise perspective, Smissen says Symantec continues to invest in automation processes that will drive efficiency to its partners to capture ongoing renewal business.

"We have partnered with a third party business process improvement company to drive and improve the renewal process, so that our partners can focus on acquiring new business. For example, our 60-day renewal notice to our customers encourages the customer to renew through their partner, and provides information on the reseller of record,” he added.

"At 30 days, we remind the customer to renew, either through their partner or online. Partners lose no renewal revenue but really only benefit from the new process. Instead of our partners chasing the renewals, Symantec is essentially chasing the renewals for them, increasing their profitability,” he concluded.

What did Salem’s say at the analyst meeting? Here are some extracts cited in US channel publications:

“Symantec over the last 25 years has been very focused on a two-tier distribution strategy, But as we’ve built out a very strong direct sales force where we’re heavily engaged with each customer, it doesn’t make sense to continue to leverage both a distributor and a partner to serve let’s say, the seven, eight, 900 largest customers in the world," Salem said in the transcript. "So those deals will now give the customer the option to go direct. Again just simplifying our channel go-to-market for the largest companies in the world,” said Salem.

"About 70% of our consumer business is now done electronically," Salem added in the meeting transcript. "We believe the same is true in the SMB segment, where we can automate or simplify the renewal process for any of our products like Backup Exec and Symantec endpoint protection, ultimately driving more efficiency but higher renewal rates."

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