Symantec's New Strategy Includes Layoffs, Partner Programs

Symantec unveiled a new strategy plan that includes layoffs and the reassessment of every product in its portfolio, taking them from individual point solutions to more integrated offerings, with a focus on productivity, security and business continuity, and storage.

The Mountain View Calif.-based security vendor said the two-year strategic plan initially includes eliminating "executives and middle management positions," which is expected to be completed by the end of June 2013.

The company will look to increasingly rely on partners to manage current customers to free up its sales force to focus on generating new business. The security giant plans to roll out a new partner program with lower cost sales models led by a new global sales and partner enablement organization. It also plans to invest in expanded marketing efforts.

[Related: Symantec's Possible Altiris Sale Prompts Partners To Question Mobile Strategy ]

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As part of the strategy, the company announced a management change Wednesday, naming Dan Schulman to the position of non-executive chairman, replacing Steve Bennett, who remains CEO and president. Bennett will head a newly created office of the CEO consisting of the chief financial officer, president of products and services, and chief operating officer. The company is streamlining direct reports to its HR, finance and legal divisions, including chief officers of functions such as IT, marketing, communications and technology.

The company didn't reveal many product specifics. In the short term, company executives told press and analysts that there will be no changes in how it does business with partners. "Detailed design, transition and roll-out plans with specific timelines will be determined," the company said in the announcement outlining its plans. It said it would expand its global intelligence network and produce more integrated mobile security offerings.

Symantec also didn't rule out any acquisitions or divestitures of its business units but instead indicated that over time the portfolio will be assessed, and anything that does not fit with the new strategy will be addressed. The company did not address a rumored sale of its Altiris business unit.

"Symantec 4.0 is all about a revolution," Bennett told press and analysts during the press conference announcing the plans. "We're going to focus on delivering more value to customers whether they are consumers, small businesses or enterprises."

Symantec may be struggling with branding issues around the various products in its portfolio, and it could also be about protecting itself from the economic uncertainties ahead, said Pete Lindstrom, vice president of research at Spire Security. The company is diversified, but needs to better integrate its portfolio, something that IBM and HP have also been doing internally to realign many of the acquisitions they have made in recent years, Lindstrom said.

"There's been a lot of talk about mobile security and that entire market is unproven except for mobile device management," Lindstrom said. "To what extent you can make money in the mobile world with antivirus products is really unclear."

NEXT: Planning, Execution Shortcomings May have Led To New Approach

The changes are a positive development, but the channel will have to wait to see if the company can deliver on its plan, said Andrew Plato, president of Beaverton, Ore.-based Anitian Enterprise Security. A smaller, leaner Symantec can more quickly move to adapt to market changes, Plato said.

"Symantec has basically abandoned the network and left gaping holes in their technologies and ability to respond to the market," Plato said. "Let's see if they really engage the channel like they say they will and their plan actually comes to fruition."

Symantec had shortcomings in both planning and execution, said Allan Krans, a senior analyst at Technology Business Research, Inc. said in a statement about the Symantec changes. The purchases of both Veritas and Altiris were full of potential, but the company stumbled on integration, he said.

"In both cases, execution on sales plans and development synergies between Symantec and acquired portfolios were hindered by distributed management responsibilities," Krans said. "Customer confusion during the transition and the inability of the partner channel to improve corporate wide financial results are both outcomes that mitigated what could have been a pivotal shift for Symantec in its partner strategy."

Symantec said its strategy includes increasing its investment in both research and development as well as homegrown innovation. The company said it would also establish strategic partnerships with which to integrate its products and services.

"Symantec's goal is to continue to improve its existing products and services, and at the same time develop new, innovative products and services that solve important unmet or underserved needs," the company said in its announcement. "Over time customers will have more and better choices that will continue to meet their evolving needs and deliver better value."

The company identified 10 areas that would be its priority moving forward. Mobility, Norton protection, Norton cloud, information security services, identity and content security gateway, and data center security are key areas. It also said business continuity, integrated backup, cloud-based information management and its object storage platform would remain part of its strategy.