Symantec Executives Acknowledge Sluggishness, Promise Product Integration

Symantec executives acknowledged the company's sluggish pace in trimming costs and realigning its product portfolio as it kicked off its 2014 Vision user conference on Tuesday, showcasing its plan to partner and develop a more tightly integrated portfolio for data management and security.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company is moving much more quickly, said Michael Brown, interim president and CEO, and chairman of the board of directors. Speaking to hundreds of customers, Brown attempted to paint an optimistic picture about the company's plans following a spate of executive departures, including President and CEO Steve Bennett, the chief architect of its Symantec 4.0 turnaround strategy, who was fired in March by the company’s board of directors because his pace in executing against the strategy was far too slow, Brown said.

Brown said the company is continuing to reduce costs, is withdrawing from areas where it can't compete, partnering more than ever before and investing heavily in rolling out more integrated products. Throughout the executive keynotes kicking off the event, Vision attendees were treated to several magic performances by illusionist Jason Latimer.

[Related: Symantec Post-Bennett: VARs Concerned About The Storage Business ]

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"Symantec as a company has tremendous strengths, but we must and we will do even more to solve the increasingly complex challenges that you all face," Brown said. "We have simplified our organizational structure, added some new leaders to our executive team, and redesigned our go-to-market strategy in order to make it easier for you to do business with us."

Symantec partners and customers interviewed by CRN expressed optimism about the changes, but said the central message at the event of reducing system complexity by standardizing on the company’s security and data management portfolio hinges on how successful the vendor can architect and bring to market integrated product sets. The company doesn't appear to be changing its strategy or messaging, said Suzanne Gallagher, senior vice president of marketing at Broomfield, Colo.-based Datalink, a Symantec storage provider.

"It doesn't appear that they're making any strategy changes; they're focusing on growth acceleration and executing on their plan at a faster pace," Gallagher said.

At the event, held at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Symantec shed light on its unified communication and data protection concept, indicating that it is merging its cloud-based components with its endpoint protection software and its Altiris management platform. Executives also touted Symantec's mobile device security and application management, its authentication and PKI capabilities, and showcased its simplified data center security concept and encryption consolidation.

The company's two strategic priorities are around unified information security and unified information management, said Stephen Gillett, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Symantec. IT teams are dealing with system complexity, big data issues and the threat posed by bring your own device and Shadow IT, or rogue cloud service in the organization, Gillett said.

company needs the way you think and act as an IT leader to contribute in helping them navigate this complex world,’ Gillett said, adding that part of the strategy should be creating more agile data centers and boosting endpoint visibility.

NEXT: Some Partners, Customers Growing Tired Of Strategy Talk

In his keynote, Brown said Symantec executives are working on creating a broader technology partner ecosystem, including tighter integration with manufacturers of network security appliances.The company announced a new managed security service for advanced threat detection through a partnership with Cisco-Sourcefire, Palo Alto Networks and Check Point Technologies. Symantec is readying a new Advanced Threat Protection offering, which merges endpoint, email and gateway capabilities. It launches in June with a web-based dynamic malware analysis service for suspicious file analysis and an incident response service.

But some partners and customers said they are growing increasingly tired of promises and strategy talk and want to see results.

Symantec did a lot of acquiring, but did little to capitalize on many of the strong companies it purchased, said Alex Moss, managing partner of Chicago-based Conventus. The company appears to have ignored startups in recent years, Moss said, and as a result it has failed to keep pace with emerging technologies. Companies aren’t only required to innovate, but grow and expand the capabilities of its acquisition to remain competitive, Moss said.

"We need leaders to chart the next course and innovate,’ Moss said. "Being operationally efficient only solves part of the story, because if they wanted to grow that business and excel in the spaces they are in, they need to find ways to do it rapidly."

Richard Hunter, a systems architect at a law firm based in Ohio, said he and other companies are being driven to reduce system complexity by standardizing on a core set of technologies from a core set of technology vendors. Hunter, who is focusing on his company's messaging and data archiving, said he's pleased with Symantec, but admits that some businesses continue to maintain a best-of-breed approach.

"What I'm hearing is that the company is moving forward with its strategy and is doing so [at a] much faster pace, and I think that is what customers are looking for,’ Hunter said of Symantec. "You've got to keep pace with the rate of technology changes."