Symantec – is our future yellow?

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Over the years I have watched as Symantec has turned itself into a $6 billion worldwide business employing over 17,000 people. But where is Symantec heading and is it on track for success?

The Symantec business has faced challenges, most recently when CEO John W. Thompson moved on from his 10 year tenure to assume the role of Chairman of the Board. I was concerned, as were many others, that Symantec would have problems filling his boots. More so as Thompson managed to combine charisma with an ability to get things done. So far it would appear that Thompson’s replacement, Enrique Salem, may have pulled off a decent transition. This is probably helped by his 16 years at Symantec, so at least he speaks the language. But I always worry about such internal appointments—does the right person always end up with the job?

From a strategic perspective, Symantec has firmly pinned its colours to the information management band wagon, and is now letting the world know that its business is about securing and managing data. Of course such a business is likely to be in great demand, especially when you see figures such as 50% annual compound growth in worldwide storage requirements into the future.

The strategic priorities for Symantec are now distilled down into the following areas:

  • Acceleration of the security business
  • Driving forward the next generation of information management
  • Development of software as a service (SaaS) and hosted services
  • Managing the commoditisation of the IT infrastructure

According to corporate executives Symantec now protects 50% of the world’s information—a bold claim, but also a frightening level of responsibility and a requirement for them to get things right first time, or face the consequences.

Of course cloud computing figures highly in the Symantec mindset. The business is focused on the provision of cloud-based services, ranging from SaaS through to hosted storage systems, fuelled by the acquisition of MessageLabs last year. Well, it could hardly let that fashion pass it by.

As an organisation, Symantec, with its multiple product lines, competing product groups, big growth and consolidation challenges, has always appeared to be a Microsoft Mini-me. I see a lot of the same issues and challenges that Microsoft faced 10–15 years ago being played out again, this time with a yellow tinge. My hope is that Symantec avoid the many, many pitfalls that did for Microsoft. This will be the real challenge for Salem and his team.

Is Symantec on track? Probably. Will it be successful? Maybe.