Building a better channel ethic

Patrina Kerr has always wanted to make her mark in IT. However, when she started her tertiary training in programming in New Zealand, she soon realised that it was the people, not just the code, that made technology interesting. She spent 12 years in various business development positions before eventually moving to Australia as sales manager of channels at CA.

Tell us a bit about your background

Patrina Kerr (PK): My first role was technical support for a local software development in Wellington. I took a break for a year and travelled overseas. I visited Fiji and hiked through the national parks in the US. I also spent three months in the UK doing pub work.

When I came back, I started with Tech Pacific. I got my big break by starting the Corel NZ office, focusing on business development through distribution. I became country manager, then A/NZ manager with a staff of 14 people. For me that was the best insight into the channel across the broad spectrum.

From there I went to Microsoft in 2001. The company had started a new initiative called esolutions through an alliance with Telecom NZ and EDS to sell Office through the Internet. I was seconded to set up the channel for that venture, but the ASP model really didn't take off. So I took up the group partner manager role for Microsoft NZ.

I left at the end of 2003 to go on maternity leave. We moved to Australia, during which time I had a second child. I then started with CA about four months ago where I am responsible for all channel sales in Australia.

How is CA's channel structured?

PK: We have three local distributors. Ingram Micro does the consumer and commercial brands, which incorporate the licensing and enterprise products; Express Data does just the commercial side; and Saratoga does our consumer product series.

What has been your focal point so far?

PK: Implementing some really solid training and enablement programs for partners. We are putting value back into the partner program, recruiting partners and taking them through the first phase of enablement which is the most critical element. From a consumer perspective, we are trying to aggressively go after the retail market and find new routes to market. We want to recruit OEM, online and ISP partners.

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Does CA have much of a consumer presence?

PK: We acquired a product called VET in 1999. That is the second most recognised AV security product in Australia. Our consumer products are branded around the VET name.

Are you putting a lot of resources into the channel this year?

PK: Yes. My team consists of a distribution account manager, as well as a recently appointed account manager to go after these new routes to market - OEM and online. We are also looking at appointing a dedicated retail manager this year. I have a manager in each state to drive the commercial side of the business.

We have had a really exciting time over the last two months with the launch of ProtectionSuite. The other key focus in the commercial space is to broaden the product range. At the moment we have very specific products that we sell through the channel. We want to increase the breadth of product we can support through our partner base.

How is CA's channel broken down?

PK: The AV eTrust product and BrightStor backup software are channel-only products, as is ProtectionSuite and a couple of others. We are now getting agreement from various product managers to put other products through the channel. At the moment the [full] enterprise range is only available to our tier one partners. They are a select few companies like Volante, Fujitsu, Loop and Cybertrust. These partners have high requirements to meet in terms of training and certification.

The way we are going to address this with the broader channel is to build up a value-added distribution model. Those corporate resellers who don't have the pre-sales and technical skills in-house, but have the opportunity to sell the enterprise-type products, could go to their distributor for pre-sales support, configuration and architecture capabilities.

Will this new approach see CA bring on other distributors?

PK: I don't think so. We will leverage the people we already have and build up the level of skill internally.

What are the hottest technology areas for CA right now?

PK: ProtectionSuite from an SMB perspective. SMB is a great opportunity but it is also one of the hardest markets to crack into because you need to have systems, programs and processes in place that are scalable and can be leveraged across the broader market.

What else can we expect on the channel front?

PK: It is encouraging to see the checks and measures CA is putting in place to ensure the channel is seen as a strategic component of the company. We aren't pulling in the same revenue from the channel that the direct sales people do. But it is evolving. On January 1, we introduced rebate programs and having different tiers for our enterprise and premier partners. We also have marketing development funding available.

What would you be doing if you weren't in IT?

PK: I was either going to be a kindergarten teacher or analyst programmer. But now I think I'd want to be in the fitness industry. I love playing sport, particularly tennis, and I love being outdoors.