Symantec looks to channel to build commercial business

John Sorensen, senior vice president of global sales at Symantec.

John Sorensen, senior vice president of global sales at Symantec.

Fresh off the Blue Coat merger, Symantec is looking to ramp up its business in the commercial market, naming longtime Symantec company executive John Sorensen, senior vice president of global sales, to lead the charge.

The company, executives at the company’s recent Partner Engage in Los Angeles all said, is doing well in the enterprise space — and in that space 95 per cent of its business is through or with partners — but needs to reinvigorate its efforts in the midmarket business. In his address to partners at the event, global channel chief John Thompson said the company would “double down on the commercial and SMB space” in terms of product development, marketing, and channel coverage.

In his own address, Sorensen looked back at his time with the company, and called the current midmarket business a problem “we have to solve for.”

“If you look at our history, we used to dominate that market space. We were built in that market space. But today, it’s an underserved market,” Sorensen told partners. “Enterprise-class companies are getting their security problems solved, but as you start going downstream, those midmarket SMB customers are left to their own devices. We can’t have that. We have to solve all the security problems of all our customers.

Even if the company continues to see enterprise — and there was much talk at Partner Engage of the named accounts list the company will roll out for enterprise customers — as of key importance, in order to effectively solve their problems, the midmarket customers with whom those enterprise customers partner, from whom they purchase, or to whom they sell, must be secure. It’s a weakest link problem — if smaller companies either upstream or downstream from enterprise customers have exploited vulnerabilities, it creates a soft point to “get in” to the enterprise network.

“We have to make sure Symantec is at every intersection [between companies,]” Sorensen told partners. “It’s a massive undertaking and a massive opportunity.”

Massive in both dollar value and footprint. Sorensen mentioned the company’s belief that there are 370,000-plus customers worldwide that fit into the range it will target in the SMB and midmarket space. It’s a space in which the channel must lead, of course.

The company is still developing its strategy for a full-on attack on the space along with its partners, but Sorensen laid out some details of what the company needs to do to succeed. A well-prepared, well-equipped ecosystem of partners will be key, he said.

“We have to go out, educate, attack, and build solutions for an enormous base. There’s no way you can get to that market opportunity without an ecosystem, and that’s the people in this room,” he told the top partners assembled.

He said the company — and its partners — need to get to know customers in the space much better, get to know their level of understanding and concern with their security stance, and he stressed taking a service approach to the market rather than “just selling a widget, hoping they turn it on, and hoping it works.”

Keith Weatherford, vice president of Americas channel and inside sales for Symantec, said having a veteran leader like Sorensen responsible for the space is an important first step to revitalizing the business for the company. But there are more steps required. The company needs to re-architect its offerings for the space, making them more bundled, with a clearer value proposition, and switching more of the offerings to consumption deliver via the cloud. Then the company has to get those offerings out onto the main cloud integrators and onto distributors’ cloud stores to make the push stick, he said.

“That’s the formula that gets you to midmarket,” Weatherford said. “Midmarket isn’t easy, but if you have all those components in place, your success rate goes way up.”

While it’s clear the company has the steps it wants to take in mind, it’s also clear that with a re-architecting or at least re-bundling of its offerings into the space necessary, it’s not as simple as flipping a switch. That said, it seems likely Symantec will have more to say about its strategy in the space, likely in the spring timeframe, around the same time it introduces its new integrated partner program. And it’s clear the company will be looking to its channel to help it deliver on that new strategy.

“From one employee companies to the largest in the world, they’re all worried about the same things,” Sorensen told partners at Partner Engage. “We need everyone in the room participating, we have to enable our ecosystem, and we have to help our ecosystem enable our customers.”