“One of the big budgetary shifts in the market has been the move of the IT budget into business units,” Lynn explained. “That is having a whole range of implications for partners and customers because the traditional people who normally make the technology calls are now removed from the conversations.
“Budgets are changing hands because organisations have enormous quantities of digital assets and they are looking to utilise these assets in some business capacity, which means individual divisions must make those calls.”
Lynn said Uplink Group’s internal research validates the shift in mindset, with 35 per cent of CFOs classifying security as an enabler for digital and business transformation, moving away from the traditional risk mitigation mentality.
“The people who need to be getting the message are slowly receiving it,” he added. “We call them secure digitisers, and they are the ones with executive buy in who get projects funded and who get security installed from day one and allocate resources to manage it.
"Security for these people is about how it can drive my business forward, not just protect me from the bad stuff.”
Role of the partner
Logic boasts that it’s easier to sell something a customer wants than a defence against something they desperately want to avoid, thus is the delicate nature of security selling in the channel.
But before the tactics and techniques come to the table, to succeed, partners must be armed with relevant local information to ensure they can expose the customer to the bigger picture.
“Partners must ensure that businesses are fully aware of the repercussions of inaction,” Exclusive Networks Business Unit Manager, Kaarena Chapman, advised.
“The industry has to collectively do a better job of highlighting what is going on in the market, and what the channel needs to do to ensure they have open security discussions with customers, this represents a huge step forward in thinking.
“There’s no value in keeping information in silos, instead collaboration is required. The channel is heading this way which is encouraging but it’s just the early steps on the road to security change.”
From a Fortinet perspective, Patel said partners can also help drive collaboration more across the industry, citing examples from overseas as potential avenues of exploration.
“In the US there are often closed door talks between enterprises to educate the market on security breaches,” he said. “There is a role for the partner to help drive communications early to educate the wider community. But we don’t see a lot of that happening in Australia.
“Partners can utilise distribution and vendors who have a depth and breadth of specialist talent within security, and become that trusted advisor by collaborating more frequently with the market.”
In founding Tecala Group, Dr Serafim believes that while information and knowledge should be better utilised across the industry, as a channel partner, one overriding skill set is required.
“If you want to be a good consultant or a good partner then you must understand your prized business,” he said. “It’s very important because not every rule or piece of information applies to every customer.
“Each customer requires different motivation to spend money on actually protecting their assets, so understanding the ins and outs of the business is imperative. Only then can you begin to provide the right advice and solutions to address the issue.”
In agreement, Mesiti said a deep understanding of the customer base is the “nature of the business” for partners in Australia, forming the foundation of channel success.
“There’s pros and cons to have a large customer base because the need to understand each business doesn’t change,” he added.
“But we’re experts in this field and our job is to articulate the problem is an easy and manageable way. You need to know your customer to address business issues for them which allows you to change the risk conversation.
“By asking executives what they would do if they lost their customer data, that’s an effective way to gain mindshare at a boardroom level as it resonates well with seniority.”
For Mesiti, the technology represents one part of the equation for Enosys, with a heavy focus on delivering professional services in business.
“The implementation of vendor technology is only a small part of the overall project,” he added. “There’s a lot of groundwork that needs to happen around understanding how the customer operates, who’s in charge and what the impact of a breach would be.
"For those partners who are system integrators with the luxury of focusing on a small customer base, there’s an opportunity to be a real asset.
“We’re operating at the trusted advisor level but the larger you become as an organisation, the harder it is to cover all bases.”
Focusing on the technological aspect of the equation, Young said partners are also finding success through focusing on providing agile security in a dev-ops environment.
“We’re seeing lots of opportunity for partners who help organisations drive greater efficiencies and move away from the slowed down methodical application deployment,” he explained.
“Those who can help customers maintain security defences, but also increase agile, are winning market share.”
Tapping into the evolution of the partner, Stitt acknowledged that traditionally, security was largely the domain of the specialists, and is now moving to a more prominent role within organisations.
“Security has become front and centre in delivering risk outcomes or digitisation enablement outcomes for businesses,” he observed. “And because it is moving up the priority ladder for customers, the same is happening for partners.”
But with increased priority and focus, comes increased market competition from vendors.
“Security is a big market and there’s a lot of vendors out there,” he said. “It’s incredibly difficult for partners to be able to get their heads around the options available, and the same applies to the customer.
"That’s why the channel is central to helping customers have a consolidation discussion around what makes sense and what doesn’t, bringing technologies together that work.”
Otherwise, the alternative is partners providing “30, 40, 50 or 60” different vendor solutions to the customer - “I’ve heard numbers as high as 115”.
Following Stitt’s observations, Young said channel opportunity lies in partners honing managed services skills during the coming years, taking advantage of the the skill shortages that continue to plague businesses.
“While a lack of talent and resources is impacting every aspect of the industry, partners can work with businesses who can’t afford to house an entire team of security experts,” he said.
“If partners behave on a transactional basis, they will not build a relationship with the customer or the vendor. It’s an ongoing relationship and all parties are in it together.”
In summarising, Moses said the crucial aspect of separating perception from reality is based on partners selecting vendors that are aligned with their own vision of security.
“But I don’t mean products,” he qualified. “I mean aligned in the sense that they think like you. It’s not about the product it’s about how they engage with their channel.
"Partners work with vendors not just for the great technology, but because crucially, they trust each other.”
This roundtable was sponsored by Cisco, F5 Networks and Fortinet. Photos by Maria Stefina.