Symantec: 10 Ways We're Fueling A Turnaround

Symantec Seeks To Regain Customer, Investor Confidence

Symantec executives put on the company's best face at its Vision user conference this month, only weeks after the dismissal of CEO Steve Bennett. Interim CEO Mike Brown (pictured) said the company was still carrying out some of Bennett's initiatives but aims to speed up progress. At the conference, the company unveiled its retooled channel program, expected to launch in October. Executives also showcased an advanced threat detection managed service and plans for the creation of an advanced threat detection product. Speaking to financial analysts on the company's fiscal 2014 fourth-quarter earnings call, Brown pointed to the headway Symantec is making and to additional changes that somewhat deviate from the new strategy the company rolled out last year. CRN pulled together 10 areas company executives point to when they discuss Symantec's progress.

1. Direct Sales Transition, Channel Program Changes

The company's field sales force is incentivized to work with certain partners in the U.S., and the company is spending millions on headcount at major systems integrators to boost sales. A reshaped U.S. channel program was formally unveiled to key partners at an executive summit held during the Vision conference. It will launch in October. In his earnings call with investors, Brown said the company saw improvement in year-over-year billings trends in each of the past two quarters, as expected. Operating margin improved by 160 basis points, with a path of further expansion ahead. The company projects an increase in revenue growth during the second half of its fiscal year and to achieve operating margin of 30 percent by the fourth quarter.

2. Redesigned Channel Program Rewards Specialists

A redesigned channel program in the U.S. gives partners a chance to achieve "expert competency" in one of about a dozen Symantec competency areas. Partners that can become technically competent would get validated and must meet regular assessments, said John Emard, senior director of North American channel operations and programs at Symantec. Emard told CRN the greatest rewards under the new program are for partners who can achieve "expert competency" status in multiple areas.

3. Direct Sales Force Focused on Specific Areas

Former CEO Bennett's legacy is perhaps in a complete internal restructuring, elimination of redundant positions and a go-to-market strategy shakeup that impacted 90 percent of the company's sales force. Sales and marketing costs have been reduced by more than $300 million, Brown said. Direct sales reps are focusing on net new business with a specialization in information management or security, he said. The company also beefed up its renewals team to make it easy for current customers to renew and do additional business with the company.

4. Focus Is On Five Priorities, Brown Says

Brown told investors that the company is focusing on five priorities beginning with optimizing the businesses based on life cycle and growth potential. The plan includes prioritizing investments for growth in Symantec's enterprise business. It also means further cost reductions and efficiency improvements across the company, he said. The company plans to hire its new CEO and fill other executive leadership positions. Symantec also will continue to return significant cash to shareholders, Brown said.

5. Expect Symantec's Global Presence To Shrink

Symantec is taking a hard look at its data centers and product support facilities globally, Brown said. He told investors to expect some further streamlining of business operations to increase efficiencies in research and development activities. More sales productivity improvements are being considered to support the new channel program in the U.S. and abroad, he said.

6. Every Product Line Under The Microscope

Symantec is conducting a search for a chief product officer to oversee development as the company undergoes a thorough review of every product line. The evaluation is aimed at balancing profit goals against growth objectives. "Some of our businesses are ideal for improving operating margin, while others are best positioned for growth," Brown said.

7. Antivirus Isn't Dead, Brown Says

A new Norton business unit will boost sales of the software by establishing e-commerce, direct-to-consumer sales of the security software. The Norton line includes antivirus, antispyware and mobile device security software. It also includes the cloud-based Norton Zone file storage and sharing software.

The aim of the new unit is to improve the margin and cash generation of the business, Brown told investors. It will be headed up by Fran Rosch, who had served as senior vice president of mobility and oversaw the integration of the $1 billion VeriSign authentication business into the company. Brown said he also expects some of the poorly performing parts of the Norton product line to be cut.

8. Focus On Enterprise Storage, Key Security Areas

Growth in Symantec's mobile security software and its NetBackup Appliance grew significantly, according to Brown. In storage management, the company is investing in software-defined storage, object storage and disaster-recovery-as-a-service called Disaster Recovery Orchestrator, using the Microsoft Azure cloud, he said. Trust Services, data loss prevention, managed security services and business-critical services also grew, he said. The company's security strategy is shifting from prevention to an investment in detection and response capabilities, Brown said.

9. Security Incident Response, Advanced Threat Protection

Symantec unveiled partnerships with Check Point Software Technologies, Palo Alto Networks and Cisco-Sourcefire as part of a plan to provide a deeper connection between endpoint activity and network traffic and support its new incident response services. The company's new advanced threat protection capabilities hinge on bridging communication between Symantec's endpoint, mail, Web and gateways to better detect suspicious files that could signal an attack. Both announcements were made this month at Symantec Vision 2014.

10. Acquisitions Possible, Says Brown

Some programs planned on the Symantec product road map have been canceled to invest in the key storage and security products, according to Brown. In a shift from Bennett's strategy of growing organically, Brown told financial analysts that Symantec will "opportunistically evaluate acquisitions" to strengthen the company's capabilities or add new capabilities.