Divide and focus

Divide and focus

When CA decided to move its threat management products out into a separate Internet security business unit last October, senior vice-president, George Kafkarkou, was thrown the reins. He recently told ARN about the reasons behind the split, progress to date and key market trends.

Why set up a business unit focused specifically on Internet security?

George Kafkarkou (GK): We’ve been growing the business but to remain competitive, and grow at an increased rate, we needed a more focused, dedicated approach. Prior to October we had development in a development organisation, product management in another organisation, marketing was somewhere else. CA is one of the biggest software companies in the world but the focus required for this specific business was in danger of being lost.

It was decided that we needed to create a relatively independent business unit that has all the roles and responsibilities relating to this unit. That unit was launched in October and I’m fortunate enough to run it. This is an absolutely partner-focused business; my boss is a guy called Bill Lipson, who runs worldwide channels. With my heritage [more than 20 years in channel roles with CA], it’s no surprise that my group has the DNA, if you like, that says the only way we can be successful is by having great relationships with partners and offering them great value. Without that we will fail.

This specific area of the market dictates a dedicated focus because it’s very dynamic. There are lots of competitors out there, which means we have to be razor sharp and extremely nimble so we can do things effectively in a tight timeframe. Having a dedicated focus on Internet security means we can be responsive not just from a programmatic perspective but also in development. You will see more offerings in our roadmap than ever before and some exciting new products that will be revolutionary.

Since October we have been working feverishly hard to get the model, people and programs in place that will take us to the next level. We’ve achieved that and done very well in a short space of time. The whole essence of this is to provide focus so we can accelerate our marketshare growth. While it’s too early to make sweeping conclusions, the indications are very positive and ahead of plan.

One of the things we’re proud of already is that we introduced a new partner program in July and made sure that the Australian site was launched on the same day as the US and UK sites. That’s an example of the commitment we have but we know we can do a better job with partners in Australia.

What areas are you looking to improve?

GK: From a sheer coverage perspective we don’t have enough relationships in terms of a transacting partner base. The number of resellers in this country varies according to who you speak to but, ultimately, we’d like to have a relationship with every one of them. I spent millions of dollars to create this new program; part of that was a detailed research of programs from other vendors and we believe a number of elements are unique – for example, the ability to schedule demonstrations online for our partners and their customers is second to none. Our partners also have dynamic access to renewals and we have no intention to take them direct – historically at CA we haven’t been perfect but because we have this focus now we will ensure that eventually it’s a channel-only model. Today it’s about 98 per cent – we have some direct relationships around the world with existing contracts that we have to honour but over time we will become 100 per cent channel.

There are always going to be some customers that insist on a direct relationship, aren’t there?

GK: Yes there are and we’ll manage that. If you want to buy a bottle of Coke you can buy it from anywhere but you can never buy it from Coke directly. Ultimately, we will build a culture where that is the case here as well.

But if you were buying a million bottles of Coke you might still expect to buy them directly from Coke.

GK: We have some great partners that can sell those million bottles. One of the biggest mistakes vendors make is thinking the world revolves around us. The most important dynamic in the whole ecosystem is the partner. We could argue that there are hundreds of thousands using an Internet security product but in reality those people are my partners’ customers more so than they are mine. We live or die by our partners, which is why the new channel program offers preferential technical support, online demos and not-for-resale copies. That shows we are providing value for our partners. We have one partner elsewhere in the world that isn’t particularly large but that has sold $500,000 of our products to one customer – that’s an example of why everything we do is geared towards our partners, even development. The partner program has feedback vehicles everywhere and I personally get feedback on my desktop or my Blackberry.

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