Symantec Australia’s new managing director and vice president, Brenton Smith, hadn’t planned on returning home to Australia so quickly after moving to Singapore last year. But it was a “whirlwind journey” he had to undertake to replace his predecessor, Craig Scroggie, who left the company to join NextDC as chief executive officer.
“[Symantec’s APJ head] tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I wanted to come home and I was very happy to come back to run the Pacific region,” he said, adding that it was a role that he had had experience with previously from his time at CA Technologies.
Smith joined Symantec last year in Singapore as vice-president for the Symantec.cloud business across Asia-Pacific and Japan. Prior to Symantec, he had been managing director for CA Technologies in Australia and New Zealand.
In his new role, Smith oversees the total Australian workforce of 650 employees and is directly responsible for about 200 of those employees. That includes all of the company’s sales operations including its dot Cloud business, pre-sales staff and consultants, its finance, human resources and public relations teams among others.
Smith does not anticipate any major structural changes in the company. “It is a very healthy business,” he said, adding the company possesses a good foundation of core skills and knowledge from the Symantec business and its prior acquisitions of companies such as Veritas.
Top areas of focus
His top areas of focus are to ensure Symantec maintains its market share in the coming years in the face of increasing competition in the marketplace while taking on new technologies like mobility and virtualisation, he said.
“We’re number one in most of our key elements but we need to maintain that leadership position which is always a challenge. Everyone comes after you when you are on top,” Smith said.
The company plans to tackle the competition in part by shoring up its user base and use feedback to help it developers build what is needed to enhance its software to stay competitive, he said.
“I hate to be in charge of an arrogant company. We are a good company. We are number one in a lot of areas but we are pretty self-aware of what we need to do,” Smith said. “We look at other organisations that have lost sight of things and that is a pretty quick crash.”
One big area for Symantec will be to continue to provide its core security products for the increasing number of end-user devices.
“The big focus for us is to continue to own the end-point which is rapidly expanding with mobile devices, phones, RFID chips...,” he said, citing how the company might be helping the Australian Federal of Police about its concerns to tackle hacking into computer-controlled cars. Many car manufacturers are working on launching computer-controlled cars, he noted.
Another area is virtualisation where the company will be making a big push to educate its partners and customers over the coming year.
“It is not a story that is as crisp as we would like it to be,” Smith said.
Symantec will increase its presence in the growing virtualised environments to support the related security and safety demands of the technology. This is in addition to its existing offerings of security, storage, and information management, he added.
It will also continue to boost its information management business, which includes technology to secure data storage data protection, and archiving - another segment of its business that is expected to benefit from the big data trend and the security concerns of vast amounts of data.
Overall, Symantec Australia is seen as a major hub armed with the know-how to support the greater Asia-Pacific and Japan region, Symantec senior vice-president Asia Pacific and Japan, Bernard Kwok, said.
“Because of the unique competitive positioning of Australia, we find ourselves putting more investment dollars in Australia, he said, adding the company has high expertise in the country.
Symantec will continue to grow the Australian office’s support capability, particularly in the Cloud-based and managed security services space that requires high skills and multilingual capabilities that Australia provides well, he said.
Toward that goal, Symantec recently announced a newly expanded Security Operations Centre in Sydney, investing nearly a $1 million to support growth of its managed security services group and to address an the evolving threat landscape. That facility complements Symantec’s other global centres in the UK, US and India .
“By expanding our facility, we are able to tap into the local talent pool of security professionals within Australia and support our customers locally. We have built a team of analysts in Australia with deep security expertise that is very difficult to replicate by an individual organisation,” Smith said.
The Sydney team, overall, is part of its “24x7 follow the sun” security monitoring and management service that is responsible for defending companies against sophisticated targeted attacks as well as new malware. Its global managed security services team analyses more than 275 billion log entries; and identifies about 40,000 potential security events.
Kwok was quick to point out that infrastructure investment is only one part of the company’s investment in Australia. The investment in “people” and the Channel are equally important parts of its strategy for Australia.
“We have to invest in overall skill sets and in the development of our people,” he said. Symantec will look to make some changes in its partner and channel program with the increase in solutions specialisation, Symantec APJ channels and alliances director, Jeff Arndt, said.
He would not disclose specifics of the program as the company is still working through those changes.
“We will be expanding and enhancing an enhanced program,” he said, adding that the company has been able to incorporate feedback from its partners for its upcoming partner program overhaul.
But there will be other challenges that Symantec will be up against like many other technology players.
“The economy is still uncertain,” said Smith, adding that the decision cycles are still slow and businesses have to be razor sharp in presenting business cases for the technology.
He also noted some some areas are still very buoyant and cited opportunities to work with the government in Canberra in addressing their security concerns while trying to help them with tighter budgets.
“There are pockets of strength and weaknesses in Australia and New Zealand,” Smith said.
Symantec’s long-term vision for Australia is optimistic and it hopes to see overall a fairly regular growth rate, riding on the back of consumer mobility trends and the security concerns of the government, he said.
“Australia is a great market to get on board,” Smith said.