Network Associates is turning to VARs to boost company profits, dropping its services arm and setting up a three-tier partner program in the hope that resellers will bring in more business.

“”This is a complete switch,”” Jack Sebbag, Canadian general manager of the network security software

company, said of eliminating the services division. “”We’re demonstrating true commitment to the channel.””

However, that part of the new program won’t have much effect in Canada, where NAI only had two consultants. They have become pre-sales engineers who will be available to resellers for advice.

But in the U.S., where half of NAI’s business was done through its services unit, the shift will be much bigger.

The move is part of an upheaval at NAI, including changing its name later in the year back to McAfee, the sale of its Sniffer network monitoring products division and the setting of what Sebbag said was a 25 per cent corporate profit margin by the second quarter of next year.

“”If we’re going to accomplish some of those aggressive growth objectives we need the help of our partners,”” he said. The company has some 300 resellers here, and Sebbag hopes it will increase.

The program, called the McAfee SecurityAlliance, will be rolled out around the world in phases over the next several months, starting in North America in August. It will see the current single-level program, in which all partners received the same product discounts, to a three-tier structure: Elite, Premier and Associate. Membership will be based on their level of sales, accreditation and training, with Elite partners getting the most discounts.

NAI is also promising to generate leads. Sebbag expects there will be about 25 Elite partners.

To help make selling easier, resellers will be able shortly to direct customers to a Web site called “”ShopMcAfee.com,”” where products can be bought and the VAR still gets credit for the sale by either registering it or having the customer list the reseller’s name. Also coming is an online price configurator to help partners build quotes.

But to Sebbag the biggest change is the encouragement to VARs to push services, which will be aided by the publication of business service guides. A dozen are already available, detailing how VARs can perform and bill installations of McAfee products. The guides include scopes of work, sign-off forms and engagement checklists for a range of products.

Some details will be announced next month, such as the sales volumes needed to qualify for each tier and the discount levels. That has led one reseller to initially be cautious about the new program.

“”What we don’t see in the announcements is the quid pro quo – if you make these commitments and train these people this is what you get back,”” said Ken Goessaert, vice-president of operations at Compugen Inc. of Richmond Hill, Ont. “”There’s some general references to programs like lead generation, but I don’t know how that would work.””

“”It sounds like a streamlining of a lot of programs, and I welcome that,”” he added.

On the other hand Colin Hamm, an account manager at RAM Group’s Calgary office who is the company’s lead NAI rep for Western Canada.

“”It’s going to be very beneficial to the focussed partners with McAfee,”” said. “”It’s going to really allow us to grow our business . . . There will be a lot of extra training available, and those who take it will be rewarded.””

While some details are missing “”the broad overview was very exciting.””

What he likes most is the attention the vendor will be paying to Elite partners, which the RAM Group expects to qualify.

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