Partners left to pick up the pieces after Symantec acquisition

But it could be good news for some, if not all, partners dealing with the brand’s products

Channel partners have been left to pick up the pieces following Symantec’s acquisition by Broadcom and subsequent disbanding of the cyber security brand’s self-service licence renewal portal, which has caused confusion for partners and end users alike.

As reported by ARN late last year, large numbers of Symantec staff across Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong, at least, finished up at the cyber security vendor just weeks before the Christmas holidays.

The retrenchments, which hit the cyber security vendor’s regional sales team particularly hard, came as part of a worldwide sweep of redundancies following the company's US$10.7 billion acquisition by Broadcom.

The move was reflective of Broadcom’s broader strategy to steer Symantec towards larger enterprise customers while taking a more hands off approach to mid-market and small to medium sized business (SMB) customers.

It appears that the fallout from this new focus is beginning to hit end users, who are no longer able to renew Symantec licences via the company’s online self-serve portal. 

Indeed, it appears that Symantec shut down its online business website late last year, removing the portal through which many end users were able to use in order to directly renew endpoint product licences. 

“Wow, you can't even give them money,” one miffed user said in a discussion about the matter on forum website Whirlpool. 

The portal was shut down at about the same time Broadcom’s acquisition of Symantec reached completion and news of the mass redundancies in the local region began to emerge. In a message on the portal site, Symantec told users to acquire their licences via channel partners. 

“Please be advised that as of November 3, 2019 at 8:00 pm (PST) orders are no longer being accepted via the Symantec Business website,” Symantec said on its site. 

“This change will not impact your current active services or support. You will continue to receive services and support through your current subscription term, after which you may renew your services through a Symantec authorised channel partner. 

“Customers with a subscription end date prior to December 31, 2019 will receive a complimentary 60-day extension of their subscription to allow time to contact a Symantec partner,” it added. 

On the face of it, this development should have presented new opportunities for local channel partners to get in on the Symantec action and resell licences to end users looking to renew their Symantec solutions or acquire new licenses.

However, the reality is not quite so simple, according to sources familiar with the matter, with some partners left in the lurch while many end users thrown into confusion over how to engage with Symantec post-acquisition. 

It is understood that following the Symantec acquisition Broadcom decided to focus predominantly on the top 20 per cent of end users globally. What this means, in practice, is that the company’s own sales team is only engaging with a small proportion of end users, especially in smaller markets like Australia and New Zealand. 

Before Broadcom’s acquisition of Symantec, the security vendor’s substantial sales force -- in the local market at least -- would typically facilitate channel deals with end customers of all sizes. 

Now, following last year’s layoffs, that sales force is largely absent, leaving partners to fend for themselves when it comes to finding leads and closing deals. 

This change has led to no small amount of confusion and uncertainty among partners and end users alike.

Moreover, sources indicate that Broadcom has not been particularly forthcoming with information regarding how smaller partners and end users should continue to buy and licence Symantec products following the completion of the acquisition.

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ARN understands that for larger partners and their larger customers that already had established processes in place to buy and renew Symantec licences prior to the acquisition, the changes are not likely to disrupt business processes too dramatically. 

For many smaller players, however, it is likely to cause some headaches. It is understood that every new order for Symantec products requires a vendor quote. Distributors are not able to place such an order without a valid vendor quote number. But not all partners are aware of the appropriate vendor quote number, sources indicate. 

According to sources, this factor is putting pressure on smaller partners that are now seeing an influx of end customers rushing to find a channel player through which to renew or buy fresh Symantec product licences now that they can’t do it online themselves. 

But with the breakdown in the established processes for Symantec licence renewal and purchases comes opportunity. 

Partners that are able to navigate the new processes involved in dealing with the Symantec brand’s products are potentially in a position to pick up some reseller action where previously they may have been cut out of the transaction. 

At the same time, new opportunities are opening up for competing vendors, with some sources suggesting that competitor Sophos is actively working to pick up end customers that are struggling to obtain or renew Symantec licences under the new regime. 

Certainly, online forum commentary suggests that a number of end customers are jumping to Sophos under their own steam after struggling to renew their Symantec licences. For its part, Sophos has said it is working to provide coverage for end users who may be looking for alternatives.

“Sophos and its partner community have set up programs, including assessment and migration services, to help migrate customers to our platform to ensure they remain protected,” Sophos managing director for Australia and New Zealand John Donovan told ARN.

“Many partners we have spoken to, who had previously worked with Symantec, are in the process of evaluating how they best manage their customers’ existing and future cyber security needs and to assist with this, Sophos has invested heavily in providing comprehensive on ramps to the Sophos Partner Platform,” he added. 

It seems that the core issue among many partners, and even some distributors, is the evident lack of communication by Broadcom with the channel more broadly about how organisations should engage with Symantec going forward. 

There is some hope, however, that over time the issues will be smoothed out and partners can get on with the job of helping end users with their Symantec licensing. As yet though, there are still many questions that appear to remain unanswered. 

Broadcom had not responded to ARN’s queries at the time of writing.