Shifting services into the hands of partners

Symantec is backing away from some of the services business that it previously delivered directly and instead handing it over to partners. Channel Middle East caught up with the vendor’s regional channel chief to find out why.

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Shifting services into the hands of partners Ramzi Itani insists that Symantec will now be able to scale its services business as a result of shifting certain components to channel partners in the region.
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By  Andrew Seymour Published  July 7, 2010

Symantec is backing away from some of the services business that it previously delivered directly and instead handing it over to partners. Channel Middle East caught up with the vendor’s regional channel chief to find out why.

For as long as resellers have looked for ways to build more sustainable revenue streams, vendors have trotted out the rather routine message that services are the way to go. But security software and storage vendor Symantec is bidding to take that piece of advice one step further by actually shifting a chunk of services business that it previously managed itself into the hands of channel partners.

As part of an initiative that is currently being implemented in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as other parts of the world, Symantec is offering partners the opportunity to take responsibility for consultancy and technical delivery services around four of its main product areas.

Scaling services

Speaking to Channel Middle East on the sidelines of its annual MENA Partner Summit, Ramzi Itani, Symantec’s regional channel and alliance manager, said the move would not only reduce any direct competition that exists on the services side, but ensure the business can be scaled in a better way than if it was handled by Symantec directly. “In some cases when the customer was saying, ‘I want the vendor to do this business’, the partner would feel that it was competing with Symantec if it had its own delivery engine,” said Itani. “Now the customer doesn’t have that option.

We are going to the customer and telling them that we are still delivering the same capabilities that we had, but we are transferring it to our partners and they will deliver on that. The same skill levels that Symantec people have will be transferred to our partners.”

Symantec intends to create a partner-led services model that is built on three layers. The first layer will comprise implementation-only partners that do not sell licences, while the second level is aimed at partners which sell licences in one country but have the tools, staff and training to go and deliver in another.

The final layer addresses partners that have a relationship with a client and want to both sell licences and deliver services.

“We are now in the process of enablement and are carrying out trainings for partners on the four technologies,” explained Itani.

Midmarket opportunity

According to Itani, the reason for focusing so specifically on four technologies — namely Symantec solutions round e-mail archiving, back-up, end-point management and end-point protection — is because research shows that the midmarket commercial space is Symantec’s fastest growing market. “We extrapolated the numbers from IDC and found that in the UAE there is a market opportunity of US$95m in the midmarket space,” revealed Itani. “In the region alone the opportunity is worth more than US$150m, and it is mainly served by these four core technologies,” he added.

Skills transfer

Symantec, which has almost 1,500 partners in the region — including 60 that it deems managed accounts — has now given its internal consultancy team six months to transfer knowledge to partners and arm them with the skills they require. Itani insists that it is key for the company to move quickly.

“We are delivering training for our partners to make them equipped and preparing toolkits so that they can carry out implementations,” he said. “We have engaged them in several projects already and exposed them to our pipeline so that they can build their teams and start offering their services.”

At the same time, however, partners must show they are willing to make the investment in services by committing certain project management, consultancy and technical post-sales and pre-sales resources to the cause.

The services mantra may be well-worn, but it still requires the channel to step up to the plate.

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