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Sophos Reinforces Channel-First Strategy with Partner Program Updates

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Edward Gately**Editor’s Note: Click here for our most recent list of important channel-program changes you should know.**

Sophos has seen a 40 percent increase in the number of global partners selling its endpoint and network products, and a more than 90 percent jump in the number selling its Sophos Central integrated management platform.

Sophos' Kendra KrauseThe increases occurred during its fiscal third quarter, which ended Dec. 31, compared to the year-ago quarter. To foster more growth and reinforce its “100 percent channel-first business strategy,” the cybersecurity vendor has updated its partner enablement program and continued to expand its synchronized security approach.

Last week, Sophos held its annual North American Partner Kickoff Conference in Las Vegas. The theme of the conference was “This is Next-Gen,” and the company made several announcements during the event, including plans to launch a cloud-security provider program later this year.

Sophos launched its MSP Connect program last May.

In a Q&A with Channel Partners, Kendra Krause, Sophos’ vice president of global channels, tells Channel Partners that her company has to continually evolve to keep up with the ever-changing threat landscape.{ad}

Channel Partners: What’s the latest news shared with partners at last week’s conference regarding partner program updates?

Kendra Krause: We’re going to be launching a Sales Samurai training program this year. There will be two levels to it, a blue belt and a black belt. The blue belt will provide that kind of foundational knowledge of products, as well as sales skills to our partner sales reps; and then the second level, the black belt, will be that higher-end level and also more of that dynamic level of training. So it will have different content on a quarterly basis based on something that’s changed in the industry or a new product release just to keep them up to speed on the latest and greatest.

We are making changes within our technical program, making it more flexible for them. We announced a Fast Start program for partners who come in and maybe have great foundational skills of technical knowledge, and are able to get through that content and the assessment faster. And then we’re also going to be transitioning our highest level of technical training, which is the architect, into more of a hybrid approach where it’s a mix between the online training and self-paced training.

We also announced a new program called the Channel Influence Community, and that will be a diverse set of global partners. On a regular basis, we want to go to them and get their feedback so that we’re making the decisions that are best for our channel partners.

We also alluded to a Sophos cloud security provider program. We’re looking to create a program around …

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… the marketplace, which adds a channel-friendly element to it from a compensation standpoint. A lot more details to come.

CP: What’s driving all these changes and new features announced?

KK: It’s a very, very dynamic industry and I think to keep up with the latest threats and the latest trends in business, I just find it really important to constantly either alter or add to what we have. And the great part is Sophos has a really solid foundation, and we constantly get awards for our partner program and we constantly get accolades for the programs that we have. But just with this ever-changing threat landscape, we need to continually evolve and our goal is to be the best channel partner to work with our community of partners.

A big driver is our MSP program. Our Intercept X is our product that stops ransomware and it is our fastest-growing product, and there is just so much interest out there.

CP: Does your synchronized security approach provide additional opportunities for partners?

KK: It’s important for our partners to understand how to best protect their customers. To be able to go to a customer and say, “I can help you protect your network, your endpoints, your email, your entire network and your entire group of people and do services around that” is a true value-add for partners. There are a lot of other partners out there that may come in and just be able to do one piece of that, but to be able to go to an end-user customer and say, “I can make your company secure, and provide that end-to-end security,” and then with Sophos, because it’s end-to-end security, the solution is that much more secure because it’s talking to each other. The endpoint can tell the network what it’s seeing and then the network makes adjustments based on what it’s seeing and vice versa. It makes it more secure because it is all one platform built around that Heartbeat technology. {ad}

CP: What are partners telling you? Are there things they like, don’t like, changes they want to see?

KK: They are really happy overall with our strategy. We’re listening to them and I think they’ve always felt we were listening to them and we always have listened to them. And we can take that a step further with the Channel Influence Community, and they’re just thrilled with that. It’s a great partnership because we want to hear from them and they want to help.

CP: Tell us about Sophos’ overall channel strategy. Is it evolving to meet market changes, partner needs and expectations?

KK: We have always had a channel-first strategy so we are 100 percent channel and we believe in thinking about the partner first. So whatever decision we’re working on, it could be a marketing campaign, it could be a new product, it could be how we do support — we think about the partner first and that’s when we …

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… develop our answers. My strategy is to get to be the best channel player in the market and that’s outside of security, too. I want the vendors who do business with storage companies and network companies and wireless companies to look at Sophos and say, “That’s the best partner to work with; if I’m going to do security, I’m going to do it with Sophos. And constantly evolving as the industry evolves is important to that and listening to our partners is important to that. We have never made a decision without a channel partner in mind and listening to them, and this community allows us to do that in a larger and easier fashion as well.

CP: Cybersecurity is an increasingly competitive market. How does Sophos stand out?

KK: Having solid products across the board is important. Because they are managed by one central platform and they communicate with each other by synchronized security, that is a unique combination that no other security player has and it does help us stand out from a product standpoint. You couple that with being a channel-first strategy and having a sales team that goes to market with the channel, having a marketing team that goes to market with the channel, and a support team that is there for them is just the right combination. And then on top of that, we’re constantly innovating. Sophos is all about innovation. Sometimes we do that innovation from acquisitions and sometimes we do that from organic growth.{ad}

CP: What are the biggest challenges facing Sophos?

KK: This goes back to innovation. We’ve talked about this changing threat landscape and we know that’s not going to slow down. Hackers are going to continue to try new avenues. The landscape of where people store their networks and how they use their networks is always going to change, and so we need to stay at least two steps ahead of that. We need to constantly be ahead of what’s happening. And so we have a lot of industry experts on hand; we have a threat research lab [and] we’re looking at it from an internal innovation and from an acquisition standpoint. We’re always looking at where the industry is going and we spend a lot of time talking about that, about the future and how to evolve that, and how to really stay ahead of it. The second you fall behind and hackers win is when there’s trouble — and that’s not something Sophos will ever do.


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