Network Associates (NAI) last week tried to put its fragmented past behind it with detailed discussions on its products and strategy. It concentrated on MyCIO.com, its services, and the commitment it has made to the channel since its turbulent relationship in the 1990s.
The vendor briefed its top 50 European resellers on products, strategy and the future at its Key Partner Symposium in Cannes. Welcoming delegates, Frank Pinello, NAI's vice president of Europe, Middle East & Africa, said: "When I took over, we inherited a channel that was the product of 17 mergers, with 250 distributors in Europe. Thank you for your patience."
He reassured resellers about NAI's indirect sales strategy, and went on to discuss some typical customer experiences during the Love Bug virus outbreak. "Traditional methods, such as the emailing of fixes to you, don't work," he said. "We are updating your anti-virus software online as an automated response."
Christian Christiansen, an analyst at IDC, said his company has predicted further outbreaks of nasty polymorph viruses in the coming year. "If you thought Love Bug and Melissa were bad, wait and see what's coming along. It's going to be really ugly," he said.
Pinello urged resellers at the conference to boost NAI sales by pushing ebusiness software and complete product suites, and to exploit the opportunity to push security in Europe, which he touted as the biggest growth market in the world between now and 2003.
On products, he outlined some planned tweaks to NAI's McAfee/Dr Solomon's range. He described the importance of its Sniffer line in eliminating downtime, and the way Pretty Good Privacy fits into a managed or application service provider model. The vendor is also recruiting resellers to sell Magic Solutions, its Dynamic HTML internet-based helpdesk.
However, Pinello said that MyCIO.com is the company's big opportunity for European resellers in the business-to-business security and availability market. One reseller at the conference said this was the most interesting part of NAI's strategy, although he added it was not very clear where the resellers fit into the company's overall sales model.
According to Andy Morris, merchandising director at Action Computer Supplies, the presentations helped resellers think about internal strategic moves that they can make to boost sales in the long term, rather than concentrating on tactical sales opportunities for particular products or specific vertical markets.
He added that MyCIO.com provides a prime example of the way existing relationships between resellers and vendors should develop. "It can't go on being a selling relationship with targets every quarter. This needs true partnership, maybe with resellers combining with each other to work together on opportunities," he said.
The traditional model, where the vendor sells to a reseller, which then targets sales people to sell the vendor's products on to customers, will not work forever as the market and products mature. "It has to be about trust, not contracts or competition," said Morris.
NAI presented the results of its European reseller focus groups at the conference, highlighting channel concerns about its partner programmes.
Mike Walmsley, an independent consultant, told delegates that feedback showed NAI works well with resellers and that they were quite pleased with its training opportunities. However, they thought its partnership programme was poor in all European countries except the UK.
Walmsley followed up the results with telephone interviews which showed that resellers knew little about the programme and found it ineffective.
Sarah Whipp, NAI's channel manager for Europe, Middle East & Africa, said the company has started to make changes as a result. It is adding education, reseller accreditation, a reseller hotline, an improved extranet for dealer communications and higher discount levels.
Frank Pinello, NAI's vice president of Europe, Middle East and Africa, pledged to give resellers three days to provide quotes for new leads without NAI speaking directly to customers, and offered simpler ways to receive improved technical and sales training.
The company also announced further reseller focus group sessions across Europe.
Making a presentation at the NAI Key Partner Symposium, Christian Christiansen, an analyst at IDC, said businesses are trying to treat security as an integral part of IT rather than an independent entity with a single purpose. "Security is not just insurance anymore," he told resellers at the conference. "It doesn't just protect. You can sell it to your customers on its authentication abilities, and they can increase ecommerce businesses with relatively flat costs. It is the key element of ecommerce."
Christiansen introduced research to back up his view that the European market for network security products will grow rapidly between 2001 and 2003. He said customers will be happier if NAI resellers can reduce the burden on their IT staff, offer a trusted software foundation, add security aspects at every step of the development process (rather than tack them on later as Microsoft had to do with Outlook in the wake of Love Bug), and make security as transparent and simple as possible.
He warned resellers against using fear to sell security and advised them to sell Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) to corporates rather than small to medium sized businesses. On firewalls, he said centralised management will be the best future sales opportunity for the channel. Wireless technology provides a chance to sell PKI and web filtering to customers that want to use their Wap experience and boost their pan-European reach, he said. Linux will add business to resellers that like the low administrative costs it can offer in some deployments. The reseller can benefit by playing a role in deciding what the customer should buy, he said.
Computer Associates and NAI vied for the worldwide security software market lead in 1999, Christiansen said, with IBM/Tivoli rapidly catching up, and Symantec in third place.
- Chris King, NAI's professional services manager for Europe, Middle East & Africa, said the vendor will introduce a consultancy partner accreditation level for resellers with vendor-accredited consultants and enough services business. The certification will sit alongside NAI's gold and platinum accreditation levels. The vendor said it will underwrite service contracts for partners to ensure completion.
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