IN THE HOT SEAT: Talking Websense

IN THE HOT SEAT: Talking Websense

Graham Connolly has a rather different background to most IT executives. He left university as a 26-year-old psychology graduate with the idea of becoming a criminal psychologist for the police. But while awaiting a call, he applied for a technical support job with modem maker, Dynalink, and has never looked back.

Since then, Connolly has worked his way through the local IT industry to become A/NZ channel sales and territory manager for security software vendor, Websense.

What is your professional background and how long have you been in your current role?

Graham Connolly (GC): I was security product manager at Alstom IT for two years and one of the vendors we carried was Websense. About two years ago, Websense offered me a job and I took it.

Why move from distribution to vendor land?

GC: I wanted more interaction with end-users as well as the opportunity to concentrate on one product and really get to know it. The alternative is to focus on many products, which I know is an issue for a lot of resellers that have suites of software.

What are your main responsibilities?

GC: Websense is very revenue driven. As the country manager my main responsibility is achieving our sales targets. Others include talking to resellers and customers as well as working on public relations. We only have three staff in Australia - marketing manager and a technical manager, and me - but we plan to hire a business development manger soon.

How is the Websense channel set up?

GC: Our channel program is made up of a distributor, resellers and premium partners. Both resellers and premium partners can sell our products but the latter have undergone a certification program, which includes agreeing not to stock competitive products and resource commitments, such as training a Websense Certified Engineer.

For distribution, we use Alstom IT exclusively after dropping DNA about a year ago. We just felt with the specialised nature of our product we didn't need two distributors and also it was an issue of focus. We don't expect the current Alstom IT management buyout to affect us and we see the relationship very much as business as usual.

How is the company progressing with its declared goal of recruiting more premier partners and resellers?

GC: I am very happy at the moment. My strategy with the channel was to have one or two focused resellers in each state. We now have resellers in Queensland, NSW, Victoria, SA and WA. Our national partners include Data#3 and Dimension Data. State partners include Aleon in NSW, Vectra in SA and BCA in Victoria.

Will you be undertaking any new strategies in the near future?

GC: We will continue to focus on our successful areas of corporate and finance. I'd like to win more business in the 1000-seat plus arena and I'm working towards this with those of our resellers that have existing relationships with large corporates at the moment. I would also like us to do more at the lower end of the market.

How can prospective partners benefit from a Websense relationship?

GC: We have a close relationship with all of our resellers and we never sell direct. Premium Partners benefits include lead generation and assistance with technical pre-sales. Apart from that, account management can be handled by me according to what the reseller requires or who has generated the lead. Resellers also benefit from recurring revenues because our product is subscription-based. Our small headcount in Australia means we rely on our resellers. I find resellers aren't interested in gimmicks like winning movie vouchers; they want leads and business deals closed.

In terms of new business are there any new deals you can tell us about?

GC: We just had a good state government win with Pacific Data - one of our Premium Partners in Victoria. For this deal, Websense was contacted by the government customer directly and I gave the lead to Pacific Data. They signed a three-year deal for more than 2000 seats for Websense Enterprise and in addition they bought extra security modules.

How does Websense differentiate itself in the competitive security space?

GC: Just being a porn blocker is old hat nowadays. Customers now get phished, they download music, listen to Internet radio and use Instant Messaging. This all goes through Internet server port 80. This traffic can be manually controlled but our customers realise that it's a lot easier to buy a piece of software to monitor it automatically.

Which particular areas of the security market does Websense expect to benefit from in 2005?

GC: Layers of protection will be needed. Research statistics from the CSI-FBI Computer Crime survey for 2004 show that 99 per cent of companies surveyed had antivirus installed yet 79 per cent were still infected.

We launched our new Websense Web Security Suite last month, which offers packaged layer protection against fraud as well as security analysis tools.

How would you like to be remembered in this job, when you eventually move on?

GC: There are times when you just want the deal but sound business ethics is important and being remembered for my loyalty, especially to our resellers, would be a good legacy.

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