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New Symantec Canada GM has plenty of surprises for the channel

Sean Forkan wants to work jointly with channel partners to deliver Symantec's information protection strategy to market

For the first 90 days of his reign as country manager of Symantec Canada (Nasdaq: SYMC) Sean Forkan travelled the country meeting with solution providers to find out how to improve the many partnerships the company has with the channel. In the next 90 days, Forkan along with the team at Symantec Canada will be developing some new channel strategies and programs which may, in the end, define Forkan’s time as Symantec Canada boss.

The former Oracle and Cisco Canada executive understands that he has big shoes to fill replacing the popular Michael Murphy at Symantec Canada and took his cross-Canada tour in an effort to get to know the partners better and to figure out a road map for the channel that will be more collaborative, he said.

CDN was given an exclusive interview with Sean Forkan yesterday where he discusses what his approach to the job will be, some of his channel plans and how he intends to address the lucrative SMB market.

The following is an edited transcript of the interview.

CDN: People in the industry have told me that the Symantec Canada country manager position is one of the best jobs you can have in IT. From your point of view, what do you like about your new role?

Sean Forkan: First and foremost I love the culture of the Symantec organization. It has a core belief that people are the focal point of any business strategy and if you talk to any executive here at the company they will tell you Symantec has created an environment where everyone knows there role and its exciting to be a part of that. But it’s the culture that really attracted me to the business.

CDN: You replace Michael Murphy who is now at Citrix Canada and people in the channel tell me you will have some big shoes to fill. How will you approach this job?

S.F.: For the past 90 days my focus has been to listen. I have spent time listening to the field team, channel partners and customers to learn what we are doing well in and what we can improve upon. We need to be working hand-and-hand with channel partners and transition to an information protection strategy — together. We need to build offerings that have a unique value and capture the whole portfolio. I also want to make our channel more profitable.

CDN: Do you plan to take up a cause in your new role?

S.F.: My real focus is taking the concept of information protection architecture and leverage the cloud, virtualization, mobility, the data explosion, and the security landscape to build a compelling offering that is tied to those major trends.

CDN: In the last few years we have seen high tech companies take a North American view of business. Your old company Oracle is an example of that. How much of a North American direction do you think Symantec has to take or can Symantec Canada be truly independent?

S.F.: Part of the appeal is we do have a unique Canadian sales perspective. I envision using Canada as an innovation engine. We will experiment with new ideas by rolling out to the Canadian channel first. I want Canada to lead in this thinking and build out models that can be expanded to other parts of the world and the U.S. That’s the focus. I want to innovate and share best practices with the rest of Symantec.

CDN: You worked at Cisco for 10 years and Cisco has one of the most progressive channel programs and philosophy in IT. Would you consider a VIP style program for Symantec in Canada?

S.F.: At this stage it’s a little premature. But I’m starting to have conversations with the channel on what programs they want us to create. So VIP can be a model for us. But I’m now looking into soliciting input and I do want to customize offerings by segment. We do not believe in a one size fits all approach. We will try to do some pilots in Canada and we do want to create unique plans for particular partners. It is still early days and I am having preliminary conversations on what it will all look like. I will probably be in a better position to describe this in another 90 days.


CDN: Are you going to make any staffing changes?

S.F.: No.

CDN: Do you plan to take an active role with Fred Patterson on the channel development side?

S.F.: Absolutely! Fred and I are coming off the heels of a cross-Canada town hall tour and we’ve started to engage with key channel partners. We want to hear from them on the areas of the business that are doing well and other areas that need more focus or change.

CDN: What are your general impressions of Symantec Canada’s channel business?

S.F.: It seems to be robust. From the conversations I’ve had to date, it’s been all positive but there is a sense that what got us here will not get us there. So I’m open to whatever kind of investment and collaboration we need to have as we look to transition from a point solutions to this information protection value offering.

CDN: What are the areas you need to improve on?

S.F.: Similar to many other vendors we need to focus on key transition areas. We need to position ourselves to offer a complete solution to the customer; something that includes our products and perhaps other vendor’s products. The channel partner has to manage the life cycle for the customer and protect them with an approach that includes assessments, deployments and on going operation of the solution. We have to look at that entire life cycle with the partner.

I would like to start out with a hip-to-hip conversation with the channel and the customer and make it a mutual investment that starts with delivering value. I want the customer to challenge us. We need to paint a long term view to build a road map that shows the economics. Give them a complete view using the concept of joint discovery through the assessment process then onto deployment and overall management of the operations.

CDN: What’s your plan for the SMB market in Canada?

S.F.: We recently published the 2012 SMB Disaster Preparedness Report and what jumped out at me was that the SMB market place, which has not viewed itself historically as much of a target for threats, is actually an increasingly more prevalent target by cyber criminals. It turns out that the SMB is a big target for attacks and they need to be more conscious of that today.

I will be having more conversations on the SMB market in the next 90 days. I think the SMB is one of those areas that is underpenetrated. It’s a market that is growing three-to-four times than any other market segment we play in.