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CA’s channel nirvana

Channel chief tries to create a benefit balance for his company rnand its solution providers

Pino Biase is currently buried at work. He is putting the finishing touches on a new partner program, which is expected to launch this April.

The new program is CA Canada’s largest goal for this year. The program has been soft-launched and Biase is monitoring it this quarter.

Biase cannot divulge all the details of the new plan, but did say the company wants to revise its rebate program and drive as much complexity out for the partners. When launched, the program’s mandate is to create a balance in its channel. Biase wants to enable partners to earn more money, while encouraging the reseller base to invest more into CA business.

CA is after channel nirvana for its business in Canada. Biase recently sat down with CDN to talk about this philosophy among other topics.

CDN: Is CA’s overall channel philosophy today based on partner profitability, meaning that it is a value-based model?

Pino Biase: The one change is in commercial accounts, and we have invested a lot of dollars in creating lists of targets for the channel to go after and build out campaigns for them. A lot of our marketing will go towards the commercial accounts. We have also trimmed down our direct sales force.

CDN: Is there any difference in terms of channel tactics or thought with CEO John Swainson and channel chief Bill Lipson at the helm now?

P.B.: There is more commitment from a company standpoint as far as the channel goes. There are named and unnamed spaces. The direct guys have their space and the channel owns the rest. If we developed an opportunity in an unnamed space we do not have to worry about the direct guys plucking it. They will need Pino approval. The deal registration program is a form of ownership below that named space. This protects the deal and the account for the partner.

CDN: In previous discussions with CA channel chiefs in Canada they wanted to gain a 50 per cent indirect business for Canada. Is CA Canada there yet and if not, is that still the goal?

P.B.: We are not at 50 per cent, but we are making strides. It is not a year-end goal for us. My goal is to get to 35 per cent by the end of the year. Ultimately, the goal in the next couple of years is to reach 50 per cent of distributed revenues through the channel. That is non-mainframe business.

CDN: Is CA Canada still ironing out channel conflict in Canada?

P.B.: This year we have minimal to none and we went into it this year to establish rules of engagement. There have been some bumps and we are now a smaller organization in Canada. We do have a sense of control now on some of the deals and (channel conflict) has been definitely reduced.

CDN: In terms of channel direction there was a move a foot last year where vendors pushed channel partners to set and make their own margins. Do you see that continuing in 2008 and does CA believe this is the route to go, or does a balanced approach work better in your mind?

P.B.: We are very strict about this; partners set their own margins. The only case is if we are working together on a direct account. But other than that it is up to the partner to determine the margin. I fully expect that to continue. Having them determine what the product itself is valued at and then build out their margins on it along with wrap-around services. We have a list price, which is set at what the market might bear. Then it is in distribution. I do not think a VAR would go to the market with an uncompetitive price and still be successful. We are not going to set what their profitability will be. They have a certain amount of control. This is the price and you can sell above it.

CDN: One of CA’s key messages is the need to eliminate the complexity associated with IT. From your perspective, is the channel in Canada getting that?

P.B.: We need to continue to deliver on that message. We need to do more to help the partner understand what the message is and how to deliver it. We are not quite there yet, but as we formulate the partner program and put the final tweaks on it we will do a better job on it. We have done a good job so far, but it has to get better.

CDN: How many channel partners in your mind know about enterprise information technology management (EITM) and are putting it into practice for their customers?

P.B.: The majority of our Enterprise Solution Providers go to market with that message and around 20 to 25 other partners are selling those products. On the commercial side those products are part of the message. The Enterprise Solution Providers fit that technology better and we are trying to bring that to the volume commercial side of the market.

CDN: CA launched last year a new mid-market unit that’s aimed at customers between 500 to 5,000 employees. How is that going in the channel and did you have to tweak that at all for Canada?

P.B.: I did not have to tweak it at all. We’ve received excellent support for it and we have additional resources for training partners to sell to the mid-market space. There are more hands-on opportunities now that the team has been filled out.