ARN caught up with Symantec Pacific region vice-president and managing director, Craig Scroggie, during Symantec Partner Engage 2011 to talk about the security vendor’s channel strategy, partners specialising and the current security landscape. What’s new in Symantec’s channel strategy?
Symantec Pacific region vice-president and managing director, Craig Scroggie: Over the last 12 months we have made changes to our partner program. Its delivered good results but we’re sort of at the point of maturity now where the partners are starting to really decide what is it they want to go deep on and where is it they are going to make those really big investments. When you look broadly across the portfolio, not everybody really has the capacity to do everything. We have a deep information management portfolio and we also have an equally broad and deep security portfolio. So when you go and put all of those technologies together, it’s a big ask to be sort of saying to partners “we want you to be an expert in everything.” What the specialisation program was deigned to do is say “we’re not asking our partners to do everything,” instead we’re asking our partners to do what they do really well.
So how has the specialisation focus worked out for Symantec so far?
CS: If I look back at what we have achieved in the last 12 months, I think we’ve achieved a core base of support and commitment from those key partners that are here today. And over the course of the next 12 months, that’s where we are really going to help those partners leverage the value of the whole portfolio that they have access to now.
What has Symantec been doing recently in the mobile space?
CS: I sit down with customers and say “how are you protecting your iPhone?” and most of the time the answer is “we’re trying to but we’re not quite sure we have a solution there yet.” I love the fact that we can talk about the strength of technologies like Verisign VIP, which you can download from Apple’s App Store. What excites me about this technology and our partners who will take it through the channel is that customers don’t need to invest in the infrastructure as it is hosted in the cloud, so you don’t need server infrastructure to administer it and you can migrate very simply. The capacity to have encryption on any handheld device, whether it is Android or iOS, is pretty important if you aren’t mature enough as an organisation to have thought through the entire mobile device management policy.
What further opportunities do you see in mobile security?
CS: Few vendors and suppliers have a robust end-to-end solution, and there’s a lot of opportunity in the mobile device management segment of the market. It’s an area where we are investing heavily, but right now being able to protect the information and encrypt it in the event that it’s lost or stolen is a key focus. Leaving data sovereignty out of the argument, if you want to put your information in the public cloud, wouldn’t you want to encrypt it before you send it in the event it would get intercepted? I think things like this are going to be important and partners have a lot of opportunity when it comes to mobility, mobile device management encryption and identity management.
So what is the key focus for partners this year?
CS: Last year is where we announced specialisation, and that was where partners needed to specialise in particular core technologies, and we have a number of specialisations for partners to invest in. The other big change we made was that we announced that we wouldn’t be managing a direct consulting business, which we had in the past and partners would resell our consulting services rather than us using the partners’ consulting services. The big change there was us deciding we would be getting the partner to invest in specialisation and skilling up so that we would be able to deliver their consulting services to the client rather than need to rely on our partner using us. This year it’s about partners really starting to see and not only realising the investments they’ve done previously start to reach deeper into the portfolio and rich base of technology that Symantec has today and build out on the core businesses and specialisations they have already made.
How do partners benefit from specialising?
CS: We don’t want everyone to specialise and what we’re really looking for is for that group of partners to make that investment in our technology and to some extent they’re rewarded through that investment by a larger percentage of our delivery capability. For example, if we’re selling data loss prevention technology and sell that in Perth, we would be looking for a specialised partner in Perth to deliver that solution. Not everyone is going to be specialised in Perth, so the partner who made the investment in the consulting expertise and specialisation would most likely be the partner we would be engaging to work on that big opportunity. So the reward for specialising is a tighter alignment with our sales engagement and better margins as well.
What kind of partners do you look for?
CS: We look for quality partners but it’s not as simple as that, because the eco-system is changing so quickly. We have partners that have a very strong relationship on the licensing side, so they sell millions of dollars worth of our core licensing technology every year. Then we have partners that use our technology to provide a service to a client and don’t sell licenses at all. So what we look for in a partner is a different set of skills dependant on which market our partner happens to be in. We tend to look for similar traits in those partners, and those traits are that they want to do business with a few and do it well, and that they want to have a relationship with a partner where when they make significant investments, they get it back from the party that they’re doing business with. So we’re investing as much in our partners as we’re asking them to invest in us.
Finally, what advice do you have to Australian business that might be interested in strengthening the security of their data?
CS: The advice we have always given customers is still the same today as it was years ago, with the best defense being mutually supportive, overlapping security technologies. So you can have security at the end point, server, firewall, and web infrastructure to ensure that you have all of those avenues for hacking attacks covered, whether they are internal or external. Hacking groups such as Anonymous are using publicly available tools from the underground economy and using them to hack into organisations. And it’s not just the tools, but also social engineering that they’re using to trick people into giving them usernames and passwords. The most common sense things still apply when it comes to security, but right now there is a heightened sense of the need to know when you are being breached, and there is no better time to consider managed security services, where you have someone monitor your network for you in real time, than now.
Patrick Budmat was a guest of Symantec at its Partner Engage 2011 in Cairns