To Marbella, for sun, sea and the McAfee EMEA partner summit.
We saw little in way of breaking news from the conference: McAfee is squirrelling away the big announcements for its annual Focus security shindig in Las Vegas in October.
And we have little to write about life at McAfee under Intel, which bought the company for $6.68bn in 2011. That is because there is little to write right now. Presumably, Intel will embed some McAfee technology into its silicon, but today the security vendor is a very much a separate entity.
Happily, McAfee was keen to tell us what's going on in the McAfee channel. Considering that Marbella was the company's first partner conference in EMEA in six years, a little more conversation is a lot overdue.
Let's press replay.
Mcafee is an IT security giant (a strong second place behind Symantec) - in a huge market, worth an estimated $7.3bn in EMEA in 2012. Even in recession, the market is growing, around eight per cent this year, according to Canalys, the analyst firm.
If we overheard correctly, McAfee annual revs are as much $2.5bn. (Intel bundles sales with those of Intel mobile communications in its quarterly financial reports.)
McAfee is particularly strong in the enterprise segment - it claims the biggest security portfolio and more products than any rivals in Gartner's Magic Quadrants.
Partners like to work with leaders - and customers like to buy the leaders
Enterprises are "not looking to save money - they can't afford to have data breaches," says Gert-Jan Schenk, president of McAfee EMEA. Instead they want to optimise their spend.
And this makes McAfee attractive to the channel, according to Gavin Struthers, newly installed global channel boss. "Partners like to work with leaders - and customers like to buy the leaders," he says.
McAfee is also doing well in the consumer segment - it is the market leader in EMEA with 18 per cent share (source: Canalys). That shows how fragmented the consumer security software market is.
Indeed the entire IT security software and services market is highly fragmented, with many local champions especially at the consumer end. Inevitably, there will be consolidation.
It is natural to assume that McAfee, a serial acquirer, will play its part, through attrition as well as acquisition, in reshaping the sector.
But first the company needs to address its greatest weakness, namely poor recognition and low market share among small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs).
This bring us nicely to McAfee's channel strategy. For the big guys, we can sum this up as: "Commit to us and make lots of money". For SME resellers, it's: "Sign up with us and make lots of money."
Struthers says the company has a "partner first philosophy". In other words it will not compete with its channel for revenues. However, the company's sales split shows there is some potential for conflict, albeit mostly in America.
Some 80-84 per cent of McAfee's global revenues come through the channel - and 98-99 per cent in EMEA and Asia-Pacific. The direct stuff is named accounts, US multinationals and US federal agencies mostly.
The company also has a professional services organisation, but says it has no ambition to compete with the channel for service revenues. EMEA's PSO team is 30-strong and works entirely with resellers - unless the customer is big enough to demand some direct loving. That has potential for trouble, but without a big expansion, PSO appears to pose little threat to EMA partners.
Less is more
Let's kick off with the enterprise and commercial gig, where McAfee has about 1000 Elite and Premier accredited resellers worldwide. Here the company "wants to do a lot more business with a lot fewer partners," says Schenk.
This is an eccentric call to arms, perhaps, especially for a company that in the recent past, had a "reputation from a channel perspective that needed a lot of work," as EMEA channel boss David Small acknowledges.
But Schenk appears to be thinking more of channel refining than channel culling. "We play nicely with all partners," he says. At Marbella, McAfee execs mooted ways of rewarding committed partners, distinguished maybe through new competency accreditations and revenue thresholds.
In turn McAfee will spend 25 per cent more in 2012 in marketing development funds and in bodies on the ground. An example of this investment is a marketing bureau for partners that McAfee is piloting in the UK and France with 13 resellers.
Struthers call his enterprise channel strategy "Fierce Partnership" - and promises profitability, transparency, and accountability to resellers.
The company's profitability claims are easy to grasp. McAfee's deal registration, which offers up to 25 per cent incremental margin for new business, 10 per cent for trade-ups, and an unspecified sum for (lost) deal protection, is the "best in the business," Struthers says.
Transparency means keeping resellers informed in direct selling situations, we guess.
Accountability is all about keeping its channel happy - and that, says Struthers, is all about "bottom-up execution". Examples cited by McAfee execs include improved partner portals and lead generation and nurturing programmes
Little and Large
On to the SME segment, i.e. companies with under 250 employees, where McAfee is weakest. Here the company employs a different channel strategy, working through distributors and aiming to recruit as many partners as possible.
These include direct marketing resellers and hosting companies - a new Managed Service Provider programme for the latter is in the offing for Q3, 2012 (see our story here.)
Most of all, McAfee is trying to make itself easier to do business with, to be more responsive to its resellers. For instance the company guarantees a four-hour response for deal registration - it says that 70 per cent of applications filed online were processed within an hour in Q1, 2012.
So that's the channel pitch: very big company with an enormous parent. Great product portfolio, great channel programmes, little or no conflict, lots of margin. Getting better at making the channel happy.
McAfee's Small freely admits that this is a work in progress: "Channel programmes are like painting the Forth Bridge" - i.e. never finished.
So how do you think it is doing? ®