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Dining out with Symantec

Substance was hard to find at the partner conference. It turned out reassurance was all the VARs needed

There was little to chew on here last month after Symantec VARs checked out of the opulent Phoenician golf resort following the company’s Partner Engage conference.The rabbits who came out at dusk to feast on the fairways may have had the best of it.
It was the first time Veritas resellers had sat beside their Symantec brethren since the backup and recovery specialist had been swallowed, and although the acquisition had been announced in December, and it had closed in early July, there was uncertainty as to how the company was going to merge product lines and channel programs.
So much uncertainty the day before the conference officially opened VARs on the North American partner council let vice-chair and president Gary Bloom know their dismay at the lack of details.
Among the worries was that Symantec’s numerous partners would sweep away their smaller Veritas colleagues. Hence the desire for “channel hygiene,” as one U.S. council member put it.
Others complained about a lack of a roadmap, a strategy, a vision.
This, apparently, was deliberate. The company had only seen intimate details of Veritas’ programs for a little over a month and didn’t want to rush things. Presumably it also wanted to make sure partners knew they’d be consulted on the framework.
It wasn’t a secret: The hungry press who’d been invited to the affair — and who have to justify being away from the office — had been warned there wouldn’t be any major announcements.
Still, feeling some heat from the council, Bloom felt obliged to devote most of his opening address to a pep talk on the opportunities in bringing together security and availability specialists. Surely partners had heard this before?
The real message of the summit was Symantec promised not to do anything to upset partners’ business. It was in briefing papers given to the partners, but they wanted to hear it from Bloom.
Other executives followed him, emphasizing how channel-friendly Symantec is and the opportunities for selling joint solutions.
Only on the second day did a teeny bit of substance slip out. The company was thinking about a new four-tier channel program, but details of who’d qualify for what levels are still to be worked out.
Hardly radical, but Randy Cochran, vice-president of the Americas sales team, told me the PR department opposed him putting up a simple pyramid-type sketch of the tentative notion.
(These must have been the same PR people who insisted I couldn’t ask him any questions after his speech. I insisted, and he was very obliging.)
Cochran also delivered the highlight of the conference, that Symantec will merge the two deal registration programs very soon and offer “double digit” front and back end rebates. And, until the program comes in, Veritas rebates will be lifted from six to 10 per cent.
The applause was enthusiastic.
So in the end, the partners appeared satisfied with the promises that Symantec will take it slow.
It wasn’t much, but everyone ate it up. Including the rabbits.