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NAI turns pro for VARs

Company COO says new professional services arm will not compete against VARs



TORONTO — Network Associates Inc. (NAI) is looking for the VAR channel’s help to bring the company’s new services organization to the marketplace.

Called Expert Services, the NAI professional services arm will bring company expertise in Sniffer security and McAfee antivirus product lines into

one group. The goal of this group will be to provide enterprise customers with consulting services and hands-on educational courses for network security.

But while the name will be NAI, the people assigned to bring these services to market will be NAI’s VAR base in Canada.

This is not the first time NAI is providing professional services in its history, Stephen Richards, NAI’s chief operating officer and chief financial officer, said last month in Toronto as he discussed the service.

“”We actually provided professional services before, and I will be honest with you we did not provide professional services well. We will begin to look at the kinds of services that we uniquely can offer our customers. We are launching it now because we were not doing it very well and we really want to get into that business and seriously service our customers.””

NAI will not compete with EDS Corp. or its reseller channel with its professional services arm, he added.

“”My full expectation is that our business partners will help us deliver on professional services, but they will be coached and they will be managed,”” Richards said.

NAI has already begun the certification process in the U.S. for resellers and will roll out the same system in Canada this month.

According to Jack Sebbag, NAI Canada GM, the Canadian subsidiary would be foolish to think it could hire all the people necessary to properly service its customers across Canada.

“”In Canada we are 95 per cent channel, but what we found was that the resellers were not keeping up with the new technologies and were not adopting the new applications that we were coming out with.””

Sebbag is in the midst of hiring some additional people at NAI Canada for the new professional services initiative. Their mandate will be to get NAI resellers certified to deliver on Expert Services.

“”We are basically the contractor and we are subcontracting the work out to the resellers, but it will be on our letterhead,”” Sebbag said.

Patrick Power, managing general partner of Toronto-based VAR OAM Computer Group, thinks this new strategy will work for NAI in Canada.

“”I would say if the intention is to support the channel by adding the ability for partners to sell their direct services it would be a good thing. There is clearly a need for additional services and there is space out there in the market,”” Power said.

He cautioned, however, by saying that if NAI’s intent is to do this into direct accounts it would not be good for the channel.

Expert Services comes on the heels of NAI’s first-ever Partner Symposium, held in Las Vegas in mid-October. More than 250 partners attend the conference, which will become an annual event.

“”We had a change in philosophy and I think it is fair to say that before our CEO George Samunak came on board Network Associates was not necessarily channel friendly,”” Richards said. “”We made a very concerted effort to rebuild our channel over the last two years and we have rebuilt our channel relationships.””

At the conference NAI launched online educational programs and new training and certification offerings. The company also showcased McAfee Security’s Small Business Edition and Reseller Management Console.

According to Richards, the small to medium-size business space is an area NAI has to improve in for 2003.

Power said that NAI has always had a strong presence in the enterprise, but other vendors have put a lot of focus on the SMB market.

“”A lot of vendor companies, be it hardware or software or networking, are now recognizing there is a huge opportunity in the SMB market. For NAI to bring their high level products down to the SMB market through the channel partners is a fantastic strategy,”” Power said.

Currently, NAI Canada revenue is between 70 to 80 per cent from the enterprise, and Sebbag admits the subsidiary “”did not do as well in the SMB market.””

NAI has three programs to tackle the SMB space: Application Service Provider program is for the small office/home office market and smaller businesses, McAfee.com is for consumers, while SMB AV Package is geared for the small to mid-size market.

Also at the NAI Partner Symposium the company stressed Sniffer as a security play more than a network management play. According to Sebbag, the resellers who used to sell it as McAfee security product now have additional products to sell.

He added that NAI wants to roll out programs such as Reseller Night School, which is currently a Canada-only initiative, in the U.S.

“”We train them on specific products. We rolled out the certification process and some spiff programs. We also launched some Web-based tools to track leads,”” he said.

The Canadian operation for NAI is about seven per cent of the U.S. revenue, Richards said. He added that he expects it to grow to 10 per cent.

Sebbag said that the 10 per cent is a very aggressive growth number, but one that he can achieve in the next 24 months.

“”If we are going to get there it is very clear the partners have to pick up the pace.

“”They have already done a good job but they have to do a better job. They need to better understand our products and leverage professional services,”” Sebbag said of the new NAI Expert Services arm.