Out From Under Microscope, Blue Coat Going 'Back To Basics' In Channel Focus

Now that Blue Coat Systems is a private company, solution providers should expect more nimble field execution and more partner resources than ever before, said its top marketing executive.

"We were under a microscope, and when you are a public company you invest and have to know what the impact is going to be three or four quarters later," said Steve Daheb, Blue Coat's chief marketing officer and senior vice president of corporate and business development. "Now we have the kind of freedom to move quickly and invest where we need to. To be honest, there are a lot of costs associated with being a public company, and our vision is to take a lot of those dollars and grow our investment in channels, both our distribution and our VAR partners."

That initial feedback should be a relief for Blue Coat partners, who've just seen the company through one of its most tumultuous years. In August 2011, Blue Coat ousted its then-chief executive, Michael Borman, following a precipitous drop in earnings for its fiscal Q1, naming former Mincom CEO Gregory Clark to its top job.

The other shoe dropped in December, when Blue Coat agreed to be acquired for $1.3 billion by a group of investors. Leading that group was Thoma Bravo, which through its acquisitions of SonicWall, Tripwire and other companies is well-known to channel partners. The deal officially closed this week.

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"We had our first all-hands today as a private company," Daheb said Thursday. "The biggest theme I had was on more of a structured focus on partner enablement -- an ongoing practice of selling-to and selling-through channel partners. We're going back to basics in focus."

Blue Coat's biggest advantage is that covers both Web security -- it is the market leader, at 31 percent share, in content security gateway appliances, according to Infonetics Research -- and WAN optimization, where it competes with Riverbed, Cisco and a host of other challengers.

Daheb said Blue Coat will be launching targeted marketing campaigns for partners this spring as part of a greater investment in channel resources, and also equipping them to sell to customers wrestling with BYOD and other cloud- and mobility-era trends, behind products such as Blue Coat's well-received CloudCaching Engine. Blue Coat sells 100 percent through solution providers.

"We can win at the intersection of acceleration and performance," Daheb said. "We're the only company, for example, in Gartner's Magic Quadrants for both WAN optimization and Web security -- that's a unique position."

"There's quite a bit of energy around our story and we haven't pushed it as strongly as we could have," added Mark Urban, Blue Coat's senior director of product marketing for WAN optimization solutions. "So what we'll be focused on is developing high-margin business for partners and staying ahead of the curve from a technology investment [perspective]."

Daheb said partners shouldn't expect any major executive changes or significant restructuring following the Thoma Bravo takeover, and that Blue Coat's current channel management structure is the right one. Blue Coat last fall de-centralized its global channel management in favor of regional executives, pushing out Jim Harold, its former vice president, worldwide channel sales.

The company still has a global marketing group for channels headed by Michele Hayes, senior director of global channel marketing, Daheb said, but it was important for Blue Coat to place program decision-making in the hands of theater-based managers. Laurie Usewicz, vice president of Americas channel sales, has that role in the Americas region.

"We wanted to push that freedom down to them and align decisions more closely with the types of end user customers where those partners live," Daheb said. "If you have 'corporate says do this,' you don't always have the latitude to customize an engagement strategy and other things at that regional level."