In November 2006, Symantec flipped the switch, merging its ERP system with that of acquisition Veritas. At the same time it launched two of its biggest volume channel products. The combination of events was a disaster of epic proportions for channel partners loyal to the vendor.
"Partners woke up on Nov. 6, 2006 and found Symantec very difficult to do business with overnight," said Randy Cochrane, vice president of channel sales for the Americas at Symantec, who called it the "Perfect Storm."
It was a time marked by confusion about how to order, skyrocketing call volumes, long hold times and lots of process issues, according to Julie Parrish, Symantec's channel chief.
"It led to a negative situation with our partner community," Parrish said.
For Evan Leonard, a longtime Symantec partner and a managed services provider, the problems following the kludged ERP system merge compounded the issues he already was having with the company.
"They changed our rep a few different times over last year, and for a while we didn't have a rep," Leonard said. "They've been changing their partner program so much and so drastically. It's hard to keep up with all of the changes."
Leonard, president and co-founder of CHIPS Computer Consulting in Syosset, N.Y., said that he works to set up a certain ease of doing business with vendors and distributors but over the last year with Symantec, "it has been the worst."
"They changed the way they do deal registration, there were licensing issues, there was switching of partner programs," he said. "It became a lot of changes. For the way we do business, there was nothing in our favor."
That's because as CHIPS has moved to offer more managed services, Symantec's offerings have not kept up. Symantec recently delayed the launch of its first SAAS service, online back-up and recovery. The service is now slated to launch next year, nine months late.
"We did consider dumping them," Leonard said. "At times we've had to switch products-for example, their Brightmail appliance for spam filtering and firewalls."
But overall, CHIPS decided to stick it out with Symantec.
"Symantec is still a quality company," Leonard said. "They still give us attention and try to work with us. That keeps us from switching altogether from Symantec. We like a lot of their acquisitions. It's just been getting rocky on getting information on partner programs."
For its part, Symantec says its quarterly survey of partners this time revealed a big improvement in terms of partner satisfaction. Between January and March, the satisfaction rate increased by 200 percent. In the second quarter, the increase was 39 percent and in the most recent quarter, satisfaction climbed by 92 percent.
"Most of partner calls I go on I'm not hearing about licensing or ERP problems anymore," Parrish said. "I'm no longer hearing about outrageous hold times."