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McAfee Channel Chief McCray: Loyalty Big in Partner Program Rebuild

McAfee's Mvision product portfolio is all about security end-use cases in, for and between clouds.

Edward Gately

October 18, 2018

9 Min Read

MCAFEE MPOWER — That’s a wrap for McAfee‘s MPower Security Summit in Las Vegas, and partners departed with a lot of information about opportunities that lie ahead in the cloud.

During the conference, CEO Chris Young said his company has realized its cloud-native vision with its acquisition of Skyhigh Networks, a provider of cloud access security broker (CASB) software, and its Mvision product portfolio, which is all about security end-use cases in, for and between clouds.

The next few years will define where McAfee’s going, Young said. The goal going forward is delivering “actionable information that allows you to be smarter,” mined from data from nearly 1 billion sensors identifying 20,000 threats per day.

During a partner summit prior to MPower, Ken McCray, McAfee’s head of channel sales and operations for the Americas, outlined his company’s road map going forward and new opportunities for partners. He also said his company plans to rebuild its partner program.


McAfee’s Ken McCray

In a Q&A with Channel Partners, McCray addresses changes in channel management and the role partners play in his company’s strategy of providing data protection and threat defense from device all the way through the cloud.

Channel Partners: It was reported back in July that McAfee launched a new organization in charge of partner and customer management. How has channel management changed?

Ken McCray: In July, we announced the office of revenue and John Giamatteo was named president. And what that included was a combination of marketing, our customer success group, and the other functional areas, bringing everything together. And so really pulling all of those assets together under one leader. John came over from our consumer business; he had been there for five years and been very successful in establishing relationships with the partner community, and then driving adoption of our technology on the consumer side. So what [McAfee CEO] Chris Young did was … pull everything together, and what that did for the channel organization is really elevated awareness around the channel to John. So I will tell you, from that point to now, I’ve met with John five times. He was at the partner advisory council meeting on Monday – a four-hour meeting with select partners that represent a large portion of our business – and then he also had a keynote at our partner summit. We’ve removed some of the layers and now I have a direct line. I report to [senior vice president of sales and operations for the Americas] Bill McCalister, and he reports to John.

CP: McAfee Wednesday reported the discovery of a new cyberespionage campaign using source code from a Chinese hacking group. Can partners make use of this information?

KM: I have my own personal channel Rolodex, so when things like that happen that are big in the industry, I actually will take that message and I’ll cascade that out to all of the executives of the channel with my own personal email. We also will follow up with our blog, with anything that we do from my Twitter and LinkedIn account. But what we do with that is we inform the channel partners immediately after, because we want to make sure that they have a connection to us and they can inform their customers.

The other thing that we’ve done with our channel partners is they have direct access to …

… McAfee Labs, so anything that comes through McAfee Labs, they have a secure socket layer feed to McAfee Labs that they can actually opt into and then they can receive that same information from McAfee Labs.

So I think we’ve done a great effort around communicating with our partners so they’re not caught flat-footed when something like this happens.

CP: In cases like this, can it be used to help partners in convincing customers that are hesitant about protection?

KM: It definitely helps us move the conversation along. But what I will tell you is, we don’t want to approach customers or a partner from a fear factor. That’s not our story. We’d like to make sure that we educate customers, so through the partner community we use those same tools to say, “Hey, Mr. Customer, here’s what’s happening across the world, so that way they know it and then they can say, “You need to be educated on this, you need to be aware of this, and you also need to take steps to remediate this. So it definitely can help partners with their customers.

CP: Chris Young said McAfee has achieved its goal of becoming cloud-native. What role are partners taking in this transformation?

KM: Part of what I’m challenged with is the entire channel has pivoted. You’ve got your classic two-tier channel and now you’ve got the cloud-based channel. You see Microsoft is there, you see Amazon is there and Google is there. … I’m actually studying that to determine where we go. How does a customer want to consume, do they want to consume through Microsoft and do they want to consume through Amazon? If they do, we need to be there. So we need to take a look at that from a channel perspective and say, “Hey, guess what, we’re working with Microsoft, we’re working with Amazon and we have a relationship with Google,” and those are partnerships that we actually just formed this year. So we’re going to make sure that we’re there and if a customer says, “Hey, I want to procure from the cloud,” our technology is there. So that’s what we’re doing in the channel. It’s been kind of interesting because we are still working with our main two-tier distributors because they actually have their cloud marketplaces. So Ingram Micro and Tech Data, we’re working with them to also have a relationship, and our products available through them. Definitely a big change in strategy, but it’s one that’s necessary because customers are asking for it.

CP: What’s the timeline in terms of all of Mvision being available to partners? What are the new opportunities Mvision offers them?

KM: The first part of it became available in September; Mvision Cloud is already available and Mvision EDR will be available at the beginning of the year. But we’re going to continue to build off that platform. We’re going to continue to make sure that we …

… redefine ourselves as we have. If you step back two years ago, Chris said we’re going to do it and we delivered. And now we’re going to use that as our platform to keep moving forward. That’s the foundation of the company now – Mvision – and as you see us move forward, we’re going to make more technology available through that and we’re going to keep building on it.

And what it does for partners is there’s a cloud opportunity, a managed services opportunity there. That’s one thing that partners have said to me the last couple of days — “You guys are finally back there with a SaaS application with a subscription-based product that you can deliver through that.” The partners that want to do that have the opportunity today.

ePolicy Orchestrator (ePO) and the cloud-management tool, that’s a true differentiator for us, that’s the secret sauce, and that’s what makes us who we are. And the partners are excited; it’s been one of the talking points.

CP: What sort of feedback have you received from partners during the conference? Any common themes?

KM: Partners are finally excited that we actually delivered a message that they could attach themselves to. They understand what we’ve been working on in the background in terms of upgrading the infrastructure, putting tools in place like our configure price quote (CPQ), our partner portal, our partner relationship management (PRM) system — and then one of the things we’re doing in distribution is we’re automating the entire order flow so now we’ll be fully electronic. Our partners can place the order through CPQ, our distributors then can send us the order electronically … and we can actually service the customer a lot better. So partners are actually excited that we’re automating the back end. You spin out of Intel 18 months ago and you’ve got to stand up a company, and part of that was investing in some of those tools on the back end to make the experience better for the partners. They’re excited about that, but they also want us to step back and say, “Guess what guys, you guys now need to look at your partner program, and you need to make sure that your partner program mirrors what your corporate strategy is.” And that’s the one thing I can tell that you we’re working on right now because we’ve moved toward the cloud and customers are procuring differently, so we’ve now got to make sure the partner program is representative of that and of those new partners.

CP: What’s next in the process of rebuilding the partner program?

Here’s our most recent list of important channel-program changes you should know.

KM: Listening. And I’ll tell you this from a couple of different vectors. One, we’ve got to go out, and find out and validate again what customers are asking partners for. That’s No. 1. No. 2, we’ve got to continue to sit down with our product-management organization, like marketing, and understand what they’re delivering. I need to understand the road map so I can build a program that actually realigns to the product road map. So we get the information from our partners about their customers, we understand the next products that are coming and then we can …

… pull those things together to determine what type of rewards we can offer the partners for being loyal to us. One of the big things that I’m keen on going forward is partner loyalty. So if a partner stands up and says, “I want to work with you guys; I’m going to dedicate technical resources to you guys,” I want to make sure that there’s a set of rewards that actually maps his business.

CP: What is McAfee’s competitive edge and how do partners come into play in it?

KM: I think our competitive edge is our open platform. It’s the open architecture — and I know there [are] a lot of people who say that. None of our competitors have the ePO. None of them have the management tool we have. That’s a true differentiator for us, to be able to manage the technology across that entire network. That is huge.

The other thing is the open architecture and the integration with our Security Innovation Alliance (SIA) partners. We announced 17 new SIA partners. What we did with the Partner [Summit], the videos that bookend the entire story were from the partners. I sat down with my team and said every partner conference we keep talking about better together, or together is power — now let’s demonstrate it. Let’s go out to our partners, let’s understand what they’re doing with their customers, and let’s go out and tell that story from the stage. And we delivered it.

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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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