Symantec Public Sector Boss: Pay Attention To Acquisition Reform

CRN Networking Editor Chad Berndtson sat down with Schumm at Symantec's Government Symposium this week in Washington DC to hear a little about what all the action around cybersecurity policy means for Symantec channel partners.

Partners are looking to Symantec as a thought leader in this space, trying to understand how all that's going on with cybersecurity at the government level is driving opportunities for them. What do you want them to take away?

Symantec is very reliant on our channel and on our partners, and in the public sector, virtually all of our business goes through partners, from small resellers and VARs up through the large systems integrators. It's a nice community in that it's a space for lots of different kinds of partners. A couple of the themes that we've heard here include that in addition to the technology, [public sector technology buyers] need people who understand their environments and the technology -- understand data center consolidation, security and everything. So those are real opportunities.

In government, a lot of the security, storage and infrastructure needs of the federal agencies are handled by some of the big guys, the classic integrators. But we're hearing that small VARs, too, have plenty of ways to play in, say, physician practice, or other smaller, more niche areas. Can you talk about emerging opportunities in Symantec's channel for them?

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The large SIs are more likely to go after the big, programmatic opportunities within the government. There's lots of opportunities within the government for project-based work; government agencies, for example, that need a data leakage prevention solution, for example, or they have Symantec's technology and need people to help architect that solution for them, or manage it.

Will those opportunities continue to grow in a more austere spending climate?

Absolutely. In lots of agencies, there are those programs where they say we're going to do this large-scale refresh or whatever, but more often than not, you find an agency saying we need to implement network access control, or compliance technology, or a DLP program -- something where a VAR has specific expertise.

Earlier in the Government Symposium, one of the crowdsourced survey questions you asked of the attendee crowd was, to paraphrase, has there been progress made in the last 12 months around cybersecurity effforts. More than half of the respondents said no. Was that surprising to you?

It was surprising to me. I would have said yes. You can feel like you're not making progress, but if you step back and look at the awareness perspective and look at collaboration and coordination and all of these things, I think we've made a lot of progress.

Do you think part of that's that you have a room here of Washington insider folks, used to disillusionment with bureaucracy and how long things seem to take?

That's absolutely a contributor. As awareness grows, though, that's a good thing because it means you're moving toward a solution. You're more plugged in to the enormity of the problem, and while you can feel like you're further behind, you're not further behind at all.

You've got partners who know as much about the cybersecurity regulation story as anybody, but also plenty of folks who are trying to sort out what to follow. FISMA [Federal Information Security Management Act] reform is one that keeps coming up, but what other regulatory actions and policy changes should they be looking to the Hill and spending time following?

One of the big ones is acquisition reform. That's a place where we'll all be focused. I think that's good news for all of us, too, because the enemy ... well, the enemy doesn't have the same sort of procurement processes and regulations that we do. They operate under a different set of rules. While it's important the government does its due diligence and makes sure it's open competition and there's adherence to standards, if you add all that together and the net result is it takes you three years to buy something instead of 9 to 12 months, you've put yourself far behind the enemy. They're using the latest technology and our government is not.

And so much of what is acquired seems outdated.

It is.