McAfee Channel Partner Program Rolls with COVID-19 Changes

McAfee launched its new MPACT program in the first quarter. Here's what it means to you.

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

May 26, 2020

9 Min Read

The new McAfee channel partner program launched just before the global COVID-19 pandemic hit, and executive changes have rocked the company since the start of the year.

The MPACT partner program is based on a year of feedback from partners and other partner programs that have proven successful.

The new McAfee channel partner program allows partners to decide which path they want to go with the company. That can include as a traditional VAR or a MSP.

In January, Chris Young left his role as McAfee’s CEO to join private equity firm TPG as a senior adviser. Peter Leav, BMC Software’s former CEO, replaced Young as McAfee’s CEO.

Other executives – such as Allison Cerra, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, and John Giamatteo, president and CRO for McAfee’s enterprise business group –.also left the company,

In terms of channel leadership, McAfee appointed former Apple sales executive Kathleen Curry head of global channel management. And Lynne Doherty joined McAfee as executive vice president of global sales and marketing for the enterprise business.

In addition, Rob Hornish signed on as senior vice president of the Americas.


McAfee’s Ken McCray

Ken McCray is the company’s head of channel sales and operations for the Americas. He gives an update on the new McAfee channel partner program; plus, how his company is accommodating partners and customers during the pandemic.

Channel Futures: What is the status of the new McAfee channel partner program? 

Ken McCray: The new program is launched and we are through our first full quarter and now in [quarter two]. The partner reception has been very positive. We’re seeing partners lean into more trainings and we’re seeing partners very active around the direction. Part of what we did with the new partner program is we aligned it to the corporate strategy. And as we focus on our cloud strategy, more specifically MVision Cloud, we’ve aligned the program to build incentives to the partners if they align to the strategy, and that’s been very well received.

CF: How has the pandemic impacted the new partner program?

KM: Productivity, in my opinion, has gone up because we no longer have the interruptions of travel. We no longer have some of the interruptions of availability. I’ve seen increases in productivity in terms of number of calls by our team and deal registrations in the pipeline. Our pipeline has actually grown a little bit more, and it’s all about that availability piece. So I’m really excited about that. But I tell you the other benefit that we’ve seen is in terms of our virtual trainings. We ramped up our virtual trainings … and we’re seeing our participation numbers go up by at least 30%. When I looked at it last week, we’re seeing more people, more technicians participate in trainings and that’s been a real positive for us.

CF: Do McAfee partners face additional challenges, such as financial constraints, due to COVID-19?

KM: I’ll start with the financial part first. There is some pressure from the partner community because …

… there’s some pressure being applied by their customers, right? If you look at the number of industries impacted, whether it’s hospitality, oil and gas, and travel, that’s real. And seeing the downstream effect of that, one of the things that we’ve been open to through distributors is financial flexibility, whether it’s extended terms or making adjustments on when payments are due. We’ve been open to all of that. We have not published a program, but we are talking to our partners in terms of what they’re seeing in their environment and we will make adjustments as necessary. And we as a company are very sensitive to the dynamics that this is causing.

But partners and customers still need to be secure. So from that perspective, we are seeing an uptick in terms of some of the programs that we launched. We launched a work-from-home program where we introduced a three-month license for customers. So as they send more employees home, we established that work-from-home license and we’ve done a lot of adjustments to accommodate. But I think the biggest takeaway here is we’re listening to our customers and we’re listening to our partners. And we’re very sensitive to the environment and what they’re going through.

CF: Do the challenges McAfee and its partners face increase as the pandemic continues? How about issues involving efforts to reopen and companies deciding to continue with work-from-home efforts?

KM: There’s a lot of innovation that’s happening, right? You see it all across the globe. I will tell you that from our perspective, we’re listening to guidance we’re getting from our political leaders. We’re doing that across the globe. The McAfee executive team is watching very sensitively in terms of travel policies and things like that. So we’re taking taking note of that.

There are some real questions that have not been answered in terms of going back into offices and how many people will actually head back into offices. You’ll probably see a double-digit percentage that never goes back into an office. But the opportunity for a company like McAfee is still to secure those environments, because the one thing that has not changed is that the bad actors in cybersecurity still do exist. As a matter of fact, you can see that the individual home user is now more susceptible to putting a document out there in cyberspace because they’re not in the office, [which is] really more of a controlled environment. A percentage of that has gone away, and that’s going to be a real issue that we’re all going to have to deal with.

CF: Looking forward, will there be new things coming for partners, other aspects of the new McAfee channel partner program?

KM: The entire executive team with the changes – with Peter, Kathleen and Lynne coming on board – you’re hearing the word partner in more conversations than ever before. I don’t want to imply that the other exec team didn’t, but there is a real opportunity for McAfee to change the partner program. We have not documented any changes on the horizon, but I do believe that Kathleen, with her background, is taking a look at the program from every angle to make sure that we do things that benefit our partner and that we take their business into consideration.

So in the short term I would tell you I’m not aware of any changes that have come other than executive management, adding individuals who are channel-centric and have had a channel focus. I think that will change the partner program long term and I think it’ll actually make us more partner-friendly in all of our programs, whether it be our technical enablement programs or our back-end financial programs. We’ve got to take a look at all of that and determine what’s right for this new, changing environment.

CF: Have all of the executive changes caused concern among partners? If so, how have you addressed that?

KM: Whenever you have executive leadership changes, there is an uneasy feeling with …

… the partner community. One of the things that we did while working with Peter is we had a number of partner meetings at RSA, which was very well received by our distributor partners and our reseller partners. We also went on a virtual road show with Kathleen where we set up interviews or introductory calls … with our top 10 partners. We also did the same thing for Rob, who’s my new boss and is running the America sales organization. We did that specifically to address the sea change that was occurring.

The outcome was very positive; it was very well received. And with Kathleen having known some of our channel partners in her previous roles. Rob knowing channel partners, and Peter knowing channel partners and their executives, we are in a great position. I can see the partner community benefiting from the executives coming on board and working with the executives in a very positive manner.

CF: What are you most looking forward to doing once the pandemic ends?

KM: One, I want to understand our partners’ concerns as we walk through their doors and meet with their teams, what changes have they gone through. Are they still pivoting toward the virtual environments or are they saying, “Hey, we have these new digital programs that have worked as we go through this”? I want to get back out there, meet partners and talk to customers again. I want to understand what changes they’ve made because they’re going to make changes in their environment and they’re going to make changes in terms of how they do business with their customers. We’re going to need to understand that in order to in order to adapt.

That’s the biggest thing that I’m concerned about, how the partner community will change — because when you look at your traditional SMB partner, some of those guys are probably suffering right now financially, so there’s a concern there on our long tail. Will some of those partners still be in business, or will we see partners moved more toward managed services? So we’ve got to take a look at the sea change in the partner community and then determine our next step.

So I’m really excited. I haven’t seen a partner at their facility since I think March 13. I’ve done some virtual calls; we’ve done virtual quarterly business reviews, but as you know I kind of brand myself as a people person and I want to get out there back in the field and talk to our partners and talk to their customers. That’s near and dear to me.

What people need to hear from McAfee is, we’re not my grandfather’s McAfee anymore. We’re not that antivirus company that people think about us. We have evolved to this company that is thriving across our enterprise and in our consumer business. We can secure more individuals in any other company. And I really hope that people understand that message, that this is a different McAfee.

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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