McAfee channel chief explains new program structure

McAfee (NYSE: MFE) announced a new channel program structure for 2010 that will be based on simplicity, predictability and profitability.

The security provider had one of the more convoluted channel programs in the industry before new channel chief Alex Thurber came onboard. Since his April 2009 appointment to the post of senior vice president of worldwide channel operations, Thurber has been giving McAfee’s channel program a complete overhaul.

In the past, McAfee would amalgamate all elements of an acquired company’s channel program into its own. “By adding a program on top of another program you did not have an overall strategy and process,” Thurber said.

For example, McAfee’s 2008 acquisition of Secure Computing basically bolted the entire Secure program onto McAfee’s. Some channel partners who were Gold in secure became Premier in McAfee’s, while some distributors could sell one product package, but not the other.

”It became complex and complexity leads to cost and impacts profitability. We did everything we could to slow down business instead of accelerate it. Now under one strategy and a single McAfee partner program deals can be done quicker today because it’s flexible and modular enough to be able to snap in future technology as we grow,” he said.

To that point, McAfee is in the final phase of integration of all Secure Computing channel partners into the McAfee Security Alliance Partner Program. The company expects to fold the Secure Computing partner type into the solution provider partner type with all existing partners being migrated into the Web and E-mail Security and/or Network Defense competency by May 1, 2010.

Thurber also announced a reward element to the Security Alliance Partner Program structure that will see the top two tiers of partners receive more product information, resources, training, support and special promotions. New margin incentives will also be on the table for solution providers off of products and value-added solution selling.

“We are making an investment-based model for the channel where partners can design what level of investment they want to make with us. In return McAfee will give them benefits across all three levels: Associate, Premier and Elite,” Thurber said.

Associate level partners are resellers who typically sell McAfee because a customer asks for it, while Premier and Elite partners go through training and certification, have pre-sales support and dedicated engineers on staff that are intimate with at least one of McAfee’s product family or more. These channel partners will get base-level discounts, deal registration, price protection and have the opportunity to engage McAfee’s sales force.

Thurber added that he is also working on branding channel partners who make significant investment with McAfee. “We are working hard to brand these partners. What does it mean to be an Elite McAfee partner and why should customers care about that. What’s the value in that,” he said.

Thurber would not mention the kinds of margins being rollout through these initiatives today, but he did say that through deal registration there would be incremental discounts to partners. And, through deal protection partners would receive special pricing for end users and partners which would protect the solution provider from losing that deal to a competitor solely on price at the last minute.

The company also rolled out a program called Ready, Set, Sell, which will be available online for free to channel partners.

“One of the big pieces for us is enablement and training. We are putting out a dedicated partner team to help partners learn new models and be ready to sell this model. This gives partners and individuals an easy way to get certified and comfortable selling McAfee,” he said.

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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