21 March, 2010
The new kid on the street at McAfee, Alex Thurber comes to the company with a wealth of channel knowledge having been running Global Channels Strategy for Cisco for 10 years. As a soft spoken, straight forward person and a strong channel advocate with a great understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the channel, it will be interesting to see how he will transition from Cisco, possibly the best channel marketing company in the world, to McAfee & a company which has been struggling in the channel.
I started off the interview by asking Alex some questions about what he had said seven months earlier when he first started with McAfee.
Robert: What did you mean by saying that you had to "make it easier for channel partners to do business with McAfee"?
Alex: We need to establish a base line for everything we do that will allow us to see if there is a simpler way to meet the business requirements and at same time make it easier for the channel. We are looking at everything, including refreshing our CRM tool.
Channel partners have lots of Vendor partners and tons of options as to who they work with. With time being a scarce resource for them, they are going to work with the Vendors who make it easy for them to do business with.
Robert: What did you mean by saying "I want to drive pay for performance programs that will enable a value-based channel across the breadth of McAfee solutions"?
Alex: A couple of elements in this. Our overall philosophy is that we have to have joint investment. McAfee's new channel program will be based around partners that will invest their time into training and we will provide them with richer programs.
We are implementing programs to support overall profitability for our channel partners that go beyond deal registration and into deal protection for partners. For example, in larger deals, pricing will only be discounted for the partner who registered the account.
Our partners have to compete against our competitors, not against each other!.
Robert: Why do you like McAfee's single focus on security?
Alex: Security is an incredibly complex task and not getting any easier. All of our resources are focused around helping our customers make the internet safer for their customers. People need to be able to trust the Internet. It would be a tragedy for our society if the Internet failed because individuals stopped trusting it because the security was insufficient.
Robert: Approximately how many channel partners does McAfee have?
Alex: About 20,000 partners with the typical 80:20 rule. In North America we have about 8,000 channel partners with about 1,000 active.
Robert: Most Vendors admit that less then 5% of their channel partners send out their collateral material for them in any type of a consistent manner. Is the channel doing a good job at getting the McAfee message out to their business audiences?
Alex: We need to do a much better job at enabling our partners. Most of our partners are dedicated to educating their customers. Problem is, we don't make it easy enough for them to do this and we don't make the content relevant enough for their customers. I suspect that we are below 5%.
McAfee needs to rebuild partner confidence.
Robert: You report to Michael DeCesare, executive vice president of worldwide sales operations and you get plenty of time with Dave DeWalt, McAfee's CEO. Are they committed to rebuilding the channel?
Alex: I would not have come over to McAfee if top management was not committed to the channel. Dave and Mike have made it clear both in their comments and their actions that the channel is the go-to-market path for McAfee and that we will only build the minimum level of direct touch sales and fulfillment required.
Much like Cisco's John Chambers, Dave believes in the channel, understands the channel and is always willing to take time out of his busy schedule for the channel.
Robert: What do you see as the major obstacles currently facing the channel?
Alex: The number one challenge is profitable growth as we come out of the recession. We need to invest in our partners and help them invest in new opportunities.
Robert: What are the major opportunities in security for channel partners?
Alex: The security market is very segmented. We have technology in every piece of the security pie. Channel partners have to look beyond basic anti-virus protection. Areas like data loss protection with all of the new regulations based on government and social factors. They have to help their customers build multi-layer defenses. They need to make customers understand all the information leaks going to and from their organization. Partners have to focus on both pre and post sale services.
Robert: What is the key value channel partners provide to McAfee?
Alex: They are the Trusted Business Advisors to their customers. They provide professional services and support. The really effective partners sell business solutions. This is what their customers want from us and them & and thus what makes channel partners profitable.
Robert: So & overall, what makes McAfee's Partner program special?
Alex: It is simple. Partners are busy and sell more than just McAfee. We make it consistent and thus predictable for channel partners which is something we never did in the past. We have stopped changing things and putting in short term programs. More importantly, we made it more profitable for channel partners. In the past, many partners had margin/profitability issues with our products. Our new program provides lots of back end ways to make our partners profitable.
For more information on McAfee's new channel partner program, please visit http://www.mcafee.com/us/partners/ Robert: Are you expecting your VAR partners to provide McAfee with qualified leads?
Alex: No! It should be the other way around. We have to bring warm leads to our VAR partners. In the mid market VARs should be doing more of the hunting and closing deals. We should be more of a support for them.
Name: Alex Thurber
Company: McAfee, Inc.
Title: Senior Vice President, Worldwide Channel Operations
Short Bio: Alex Thurber is responsible for McAfee's worldwide channel strategy and operations. His primary areas of focus include driving pay for performance programs that enable a value-based channel across the breadth of McAfee solutions.
Name: Alex Thurber
Prior to joining McAfee, Alex was responsible for the development and execution of Cisco's channel strategies and programs for security, wireless and emerging technologies, as well as the channel integration of all Cisco acquisitions. In his ten years at Cisco, he oversaw the activities in the enterprise, commercial and public sector markets, was responsible for the go-to-market channel strategy for security, wireless and datacenter and served as Managing Director for Japan Channels, responsible for all of Cisco's Japanese channel business.
Before Cisco, Alex started Thurber Works and under his direction, the firm became the Northwest's premier network solutions and security company. Alex determined the strategy and business direction for Thurber Works and helped expand it to 35 people before it was acquired by Central Design Systems in September of 1998. In 1997, Thurber Works was the fastest growing technology company in Oregon, and the 75th fastest growing technology company in the United States. In 1999, he was named Oregon's Technology Entrepreneur of the Year.
Thurber has spent a number of years living outside of the United States, including a two year assignment in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for Software Support Services of Corvallis, Oregon. While there, he formed and later sold TDE Informatica Limitada, a software development house that redesigned software for the Brazilian market.
Thurber holds a BA in International Relations from Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois.
- Movie: not sure I have a favorite movie. Like lots of them. Any type.
- Fiction Author: Herman Wouk
- Non fiction Author: David McCullough
- Actor/Actress: John Cleese.
- Book: The Caine Munity. Probably read it a dozen times.
- Music Group/Singer: all kinds & no favorite. Maybe U2. Everything from Beethoven to Lady GaGa, except country music.
- Sport (play): Skiing, golf and tennis & don't do any of them enough. Run 5 times a week rain or shine.
- Sport (watch): US Football
- Food: Sushi
- Drink: Beer or Vodka and Tonic
- Car: BMW M3 hardtop convertible & have one and I love it..
- Super Hero: Superman
- Villain: Joker
- City: San Francisco
- Country: Switzerland. Beauty and organization. Love lots of countries. Brazil for its people. Overall USA is and always will be my favorite.
- IT company: McAfee of course, and Cisco in all areas except security where we are going to kick their butts.
- Non-IT company: GE
- IT industry CEO: besides my boss who I am really impressed with: John Chambers.
- Non-IT industry CEO: Jack Walsh
- Charity: Heifer International
- IT Gadget: they change so fast. Right now, I want to get an iPAD.
- Family Activity: Hanging out with my 11 yr. old son and 13 year old daughter. Snow skiing seems to be the favorite activity these days.
Robert Cohen, a passionate and enthusiastic channel advocate, is the founder of the ChannelLine Advisory Council as well as president and business editor of Integrated mar.com, publishers of Channel Advisor, eChannelLine and ConnectIT. Since 1980 he has worked with 350 IT vendors, distributors and resellers in developing and implementing strategic go-to-market programs, using a variety of direct, channel and hybrid models. Integrated mar.com, in conjunction with Robert has created the Trusted Business Advisor program. Robert can be reached at 1-800-465-2059 1-800-465-2059 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.