Symantec CEO Steve Bennett reiterated to solution providers this week that Symantec's strategic re-alignment plan will be revealed in January, along with other "positive news" that he said will make Symantec a more effective partner.
"Our customers need us to take our game to a whole new level," Bennett said during the opening keynote of Symantec's Government Symposium in Washington, D.C. "What I've heard is that Symantec needs a more focused strategy to run the company in a bit more effective manner."
Bennett said the public sector would remain a priority as the company looks to become more focused on vertical markets. Symantec will also offer products "more focused on today and tomorrow's needs and that do a much better job of solving your most important problems going forward," he said.
Bennett, who was not made available to CRN for an interview during the conference, replaced former Symantec CEO Enrique Salem in late July.
At the time, quarterly earnings had plunged nearly 10 percent and Bennett, who had joined Symantec's board in 2010, said that "it was the board's judgment that it was in the best interests of Symantec to make a change in the CEO." Bennett, who remains chairman, was previously CEO of Intuit from 2000 to 2007 and also held executive roles at GE.
Following the announcement, channel partners and security market observers urged Symantec to re-focus, saying it had gotten too big and too slow.
Bennett said at the Symposium that for the past four months he's been on a listening tour, meeting with customers and partners around the world. He first mentioned the January announcement during Symantec's fiscal second quarter earnings call in late October, at which time Bennett also confirmed the ouster of former executive vice president of worldwide sales William Robbins.
Partners interviewed by CRN at the Symantec Government Symposium think that seismic moves -- such as an occasionally rumored divestiture of the Veritas storage business Symantec acquired for $13 billion in 2005 -- are unlikely. The channel's more interested in seeing Symantec better rationalize its sprawling product portfolio and approach customers with a solution-selling vs. point product mentality.
"Symantec has a wide, wide portfolio that got even bigger when they brought on Veritas," said Toby Zellers, vice president, strategy and solutions for TVAR Solutions, a McLean, Va.-based solution provider. "You have backup, and replication and network security and systems management and there is a continuum, but it's difficult to be an expert on all those products."
Zellers, who worked for both Symantec and pre-acquisition Veritas in the past, speculated that Symantec would approach solutions selling by changing how product areas are managed.
"Maybe they go for account leads who have a general business focus and put product specialists underneath that, the way many large companies do," he said. "Or maybe they create stovepipes in the product businesses, but it sounds like they don't plan to do that."
"They're still such a siloed product company," said an SVP-level executive at a top Symantec partner, who asked that his name not be used. "Talking with the division sales reps is all about, do you want to sell what I have, and if not, go talk to this guy in that unit over there because you can't help me. To date there really hasn't been a packaged solutions approach, and that's a problem for partners who really see the potential of selling across the Symantec product set. I mean, don't they want partners to be expanding their sales and upselling customers beyond the endpoint security?"
Intuitive Technology Group, a Bloomington, Minn.-based solution provider, focuses on Symantec's Altiris management software and cloud services offerings. It's a modest, but growing piece of Symantec's overall revenue pie, said Steve Tiches, Intuitive's national sales director, so with the upcoming strategic change, highly specialized Symantec partners wonder what will happen to smaller business units.
"We're looking forward to January, and we're a little nervous," Tiches said. "What's [Bennett] going to do with some of the things we specialize in? Will they divest? We don't know. But overall, it's a good thing he came in. They weren't moving the chains, and I think they realize there's a lot more value in their products that can be taken advantage of. They're a very good partner to us, so we're excited to see them make improvements."
Another top Symantec partner said that based on non-disclosure briefings he and other solution providers have had recently with Symantec's engineering teams, the company is definitely moving toward a more consolidated approach that plays up packaged solutions, not point products.
"The CISOs I talk to are not interested in buying a bunch of products -- they don't care about that, they just want to be made secure and want to know how they do that," said the partner, who requested anonymity. "This is a market that is so rapidly changing and there are already a large number of products associated with it anyway that do finite things."
The partner gave an example of the former SOA-based SecureFusion product that Symantec acquired with Gideon Technologies in 2010, which was integrated first into Symantec's Risk Automation Suite but which is becoming part of Symantec's overall Control Compliance Suite. He said that based on briefings with Symantec executives, a lot more is coming from a consolidated product point of view, particularly in mobile technology -- an area where Symantec has lagged.
"What they've told us about where they're going, the products they have on the way, it was very impressive to me," the partner said. "It showed they knew what needed to be done."
Eric Wilson, director of sales for Emergent, a Vienna, Va.-based solution provider, said the sense was also that Symantec will breathe new life into some of its product sets.
"Some of these areas, like authentication, software tokens, have fallen by the wayside, and they're figuring out how to put them together more effectively and involve mobility," he said. "That's exciting not just for us, but for the customers."
Meanwhile, members of Symantec's public sector team don't expect any disruption to their organization -- quite the opposite, in fact.
"We haven't seen major changes to our business, although you heard Steve's message that he considers public sector a big priority. He's assured that to me privately as well," said GiGi Schumm, vice president and general manager, Symantec public sector. "The good news is that we're going to focus on this more as a business, not just have a sales team but as a real business where we have the right products and partnerships and marketing efforts and everything aligned together. That's good news for us."
PUBLISHED NOV. 8, 2012