Symantec Restructures Public Sector Channel Organization

Symantec said Tom Gillman, a public sector channel veteran formerly at Crossbeam and before that Juniper Networks, is the company's new senior director of public sector channels as of Dec. 15, 2008.

Alex Hart, former director of state, local and academic channels and a previous VARBusiness Government Channel Executive of the Year award winner, was let go.

Randy Cochran, Symantec's vice president of Channel Sales, Americas, traced the divided federal and SLED sides to Symantec's acquisition of Veritas in 2005.

"At the time, we had different public sector channels covering fed and SLED," Cochran told "There were really two choices: pick one and run the risk of losing favor with the other, or run two separate groups, and that's what we decided to do at that point. I think that once the lanes started to merge, we thought, hey, this was as great a time as any. It also affords us some leverage points where we can be a little bit smarter on some coverage models. Tom is talking to a lot of partners to see what's working and what's not working."

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Gillman was formerly director of channel sales for network security vendor Crossbeam Systems, a position he started in October 2007 after a stretch as director of federal channels for Juniper.

"I think Symantec has the same view of the partner world that I do -- it's not a hierarchical view of 'we're the vendor and you're the provider,'" Gillman said. "I want to understand the priorities of the partners and the changes in the channel as we move into different times."

Does Gillman see any immediate changes to how Symantec engages its public sector channel partners?

"To be honest with you, I'm only four weeks into it and I'm not yet seeing anything major that I'm going to propose," Gillman said. "If anything comes about immediately, it will be on a minor scale. In talking to the partners so far, they seem very satisfied with the programs. I don't see anything major changing in terms of operational aspects of either side, apart from looking at where we can combine resources to be more effective."

"The good thing about hiring Tom on Dec. 15 was not only a professional disconnect from his previous employment, but that we also wanted him to sift in through during a quiet period," Cochran said. "I think you know that the one thing this partner ecosystem won't tolerate is major shifts. We're looking to tweak the engine and look at how we can do this a little bit quicker and more efficiently."

In terms of public sector channel trends, both Cochran and Gillman named data loss prevention as a hot market out of the gate in 2009, and one the vendor hopes to continue to leverage more than a year after its acquisition of DLP stalwart Vontu.

"On the SLED side, in particular, there's a huge interest in DLP," Cochran said. "I think you'll see even more focus on the recovery aspect rather than just the backup. It's being hosted for you. You're starting to see more and more of that in both state and local markets as well as federal. You can recover and get back to where you were."

Hart said he understood the changes. "I have nothing but positive things to say about Symantec. Unfortunately, it's been a part of the macroeconomic situation we find ourselves in, and I was one of the choices that was made," Hart said in a interview. "It's not something I hold against them in any way, shape or form."

Hart said that although federal and SLED markets are fundamentally different animals, he didn't fault Symantec's choice to consolidate the leadership roles.

"From a macro perspective, making sure there's one hand on the tiller, so to speak, is not a bad idea," he said. "These are different times, and I think these times require looking at things from a slightly different perspective. I don't think [Symantec] is looking to make significant changes at the tactical level. [Tom Gillman] is a good guy, and I think he's going to do some good things."

Hart, who spent eight years with Symantec, said he is consulting and examining new opportunities.

"It was a very fulfilling run and it's time to go on to something else," Hart said. "But trust me, I'm not going anywhere. I'm still a huge proponent of the channel. There are nuances in channel business you really don't get anywhere else."