Julie Parrish has spent most of her professional life in the channel; first with 3Com, then Veritas and now with Symantec Corp. During that time, one thing has remained constant in the increasingly changing IT industry and that is channel partners want to make money.
According to John Thompson, Symantec’s CEO and Parrish’s boss, the company has not skipped a beat in that regard since she has taken over the worldwide channels job. “She has picked up the ball and run with it,” he said.
What impresses him most about Parrish, Thompson said, is her ability to be professional, thoughtful and savvy at the same time.
For Parrish, this time in Symantec’s channel evolution is its most critical. Her team has had to integrate almost 20 different channel plans into one partner program.
Parrish sat down with CDN during its recent Partner Engage conference in Palm Springs, Calif., to talk about this integration among other things.
CDN: You had something like 18 different channel programs to integrate into one new combined partner program. What would you say would be the smartest thing you did in the integration?
Julie Parrish: The smartest thing was to focus on maintaining momentum for our partners in the process. What we did was look at the benefits partners were receiving in what other program they were in. O.K., if that is the level of benefit you are getting in the Veritas program or this version of the Symantec program, it would translate to this in the new program. We mapped them in based on the benefits they were already getting and the requirements they already met. No benefits taken away. They did not have authorization requirements changed. They were not given a blank sheet of paper telling them here is the new program and you have 12 months to qualify. We really tried to do something that allows them to continue engaging with us. That was one of the smartest things we did. It was also one of the most difficult things we had to do because we had 22,000 partners and 20 different programs on a database system in less than perfect condition. The amount of manual work we had to do was tremendous, with check and re-check, but it was worth it. The launch of the program was almost a non-event in a good way.
It wasn’t about brand-new benefits. We put all this together quietly behind the scenes and you hardly felt a thing.
CDN: Are you considering making certifications equal with revenue in your new plan?
J.P.: Absolutely. In fact, that is one of the designs in the new program. Our partners will be rewarded on the investments they make in specialization, certification, training and revenue. That was an important design criteria because previously we were rewarding partners too much on revenue. We were requiring certification or authorization to sell the product, but not providing as much recognition in the program for that. So we said: Wait a second, we should start weighing this a little differently. We are finalizing the weighing right now, but we are doing it. You need both partner types and I want to be sure I send the right kind of message to the volume partners. Sell a lot of stuff? That is great. And a lot of those volume partners do not have to invest in certification and training and they are important to me. So are the smaller partners in local geographies with special expertise that may be driving less revenue but are in a key part of the market that I can’t get to. So I have to make sure they are not undercut by my volume guys.
CDN: You have a global view of things. What do you think your Canadian channel partners do better than any other from other regions around the world?
J.P.: Play hockey?
CDN: That’s a regional joke?
J.P.: It’s not a unique perspective. What I have found in my past with Canadians is they have a tremendous amount of commitment and loyalty. What I tend to see in partners in Canada are businesses that have been around for a long time. They get into a vendor and build up those practices and stay for the most part. This is different than what I see in the U.S., where there is turnover, less commitment, they look for the fast buck, they make quick changes.
CDN: A Kitchener, Ont. Symantec partner asked me to bring this up. He seems to be having a tough time competing with other solution providers who are offering BitDefender to channel partners for free. It’s hard to compete with free especially if the product works. What do you have to say to a channel partner like this one?
J.P.: It is hard to make money on free. Need I say more? Zero times zero is zero. I think it is only so long that this can last. There is also an informed value proposition that customers will associate with that. How good can that be? I do not know too much about BitDefender, but some- times it is an interesting strategy from a company based in Romania that has no presence (here). So they may do this to get attention.
I would say to this reseller: is this a strategy you can bet a business on? Is that a long-term strategy? You can’t make money on free.