Symantec CEO on reorg: 'our system is just broken'

Under the helm of new CEO Steve Bennett, Symantec late yesterday outlined a re-organization intended to lead to a leaner company and a new range of security and backup services and products, built primarily on internal research and development not acquisitions, within the next six to nine months.

In a presentation before Wall Street investment firm analysts, Bennett, who became head of Symantec last July, was candid in saying sales and marketing teams had been "high cost but didn't provide quality outcomes" and said lay-offs were coming there in a transition beginning right away that would primarily impact middle management. "Our system is just broken," he admitted later, saying it was time to fix it through a total re-organization of how Symantec sells and licenses products and services.

[BACKGROUND: Symantec shows off security research and development projects]

There would be a new emphasis on e-commerce capabilities and telesales in the future. There would be more effort to have Symantec security and backup products and services integrated into what telcos and ISPs do, and a focus on vertical markets with more customized offerings for small businesses and verticals markets. And Bennett said while Symantec continues to have an endpoint security business, there isn't going to be a big dividing line in terms of consumer and business anymore.

"We don't have a consumer business anymore," he declared, noting Janice Chaffin, head of Symantec's consumer unit, had effectively stepped down.

In other changes, Symantec has created a new "Office of the CEO" in which a small team of executives will make collective operational and functional decisions with Bennett. And Bennett, joined by some members of that team that included Francis deSouza as president of products and services, and Steve Gillett, COO, said Symantec envisions the creation of new lines of products and services in which it would be investing heavily there through research and development.

Symantec has great products, many of them gained through acquisitions, but could be doing a better job on integrating them and simplifying the way they're licensed, said Bennett. He promised a "revolution" in which Symantec will be re-designing products with an eye toward finding a way that customers can simply turn on functionality rather than acquiring another product.

In addition, Symantec will be focusing on offerings in 10 core areas: Mobile Workforce Productivity, Norton Protection, Norton Cloud, Information Security Services, Identity/Content-Aware Security Gateway, Data Center Security, Business Continuity, Integrated Backup, Cloud-based Information Management, and Object Storage Platform. Symantec is emphasizing that cloud-based services and mobile smartphone and tablet security and backup will be front and center. Bennett, who said he didn't envision additional inroads into "network security," said he and his team met with over 50 enterprise and government customers, and asked for specific advice from analysts, among others, before reaching the decision to do what was announced yesterday.

"Before, it was all about the PC," said deSouza, the top director for how these ideas will be technically implemented. "Now it's mobile devices, BYOD, web platforms." The old enterprise network is not being replaced by cloud and mobile but expanded by it, he noted, saying it means there are simply more "control points" to be protected.

DeSouza acknowledged that Symantec's share of the security market has been falling over the last six years or so. Not only do traditional competitors such as McAfee remain a force to be reckoned with, but start-ups are also gaining a foothold in newer areas. DeSouza also said Symantec faces competition in various ways from the operating-system "stack providers" such as Microsoft with Windows, Apple with its iOS platform or VMware with its virtualization platform. But he said Symantec's advantage in meeting these challenges is through a "cross-platform, "heterogeneous" approach that will "scale" in terms of security and backup services and products. Symantec also emphasized the consumerization of IT and the "ITization of the consumer" now provided with ever-more powerful cloud and mobile technologies, is blurring the old demarcations between the role of enterprise network and the role of the individual.

Internal innovation will be key to what Symantec does, deSouza said. In about six to 10 months, Symantec expects to introduce new Information Security Services related to aggregating information related to both Symantec and third-party products, combined with threat intelligence feeds, to determine where network assets need remediation and the security-compliance status. For Business Continuity, Symantec anticipates continuity offerings for business-critical applications such as SAP, as well as physical and virtualized server platforms. There could be as many as 10 new products and services aimed at mobile and cloud backup and security in particular.

Symantec promised the Wall Street investors that this strategy will lead to "more than 5% organic growth" and "non-GAAP operating margins better than 30%" over the next two or three years. Still, some expressed skepticism combined with optimism, with JP Morgan, for instance, saying in its analysis it thinks Symantec has "a tremendous amount of untapped potential," but "it remains unclear whether than potential will be realized or simply remain that unrealized potential." But JP Morgan also noted while Symantec "has been plagued by execution issues and secular concerns for years," the company has more value than is being recognized in the stock today.

The moment that Bennett's webcast meeting with the Wall Street investment firm crowd ended, rival McAfee, now owned by Intel, blasted out a mocking critique of it all.

"We see Symantec is embracing the McAfee Security Connected strategy but they are four years behind us," said Mike Fey, CTO at McAfee, claiming McAfee a decade ago made the decision to integrate products into the McAfee ePolicy Orchestrator. He mockingly added that because McAfee has Intel behind it, Symantec's hardware and software security "is in no position to match" McAfee, which he said outguns Symantec in "network security" used by the enterprise.

Symantec today, however, is the much larger rival in the head-to-head security match that has gone on for well over a decade with McAfee.

McAfee also wants to spur growth through new products and services, but will apparently take a different course than Symantec, which is looking to in-house research and development. Instead, McAfee seems more focused on acquisitions.

McAfee executives Bruce Snell, technical marketing manager with McAfee Security, and Jill Kyte, McAfee vice president of products and solutions marketing, made that clear earlier this week in discussing the Security Connected program, where McAfee works with third-party vendors to allow their products to work with some McAfee products, such as ePO and the McAfee security-event and information management product. McAfee on Feb. 25 plans to announce another acquisition during the RSA Conference, and is hinting it could be a company it's worked closely with under the McAfee Security Connected program.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: MessmerE. E-mail:

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This story, "Symantec CEO on reorg: 'our system is just broken'" was originally published by Network World.

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