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Executive Conversations: Symantec’s Brian Foster

July 2007 Product

Microsoft has continues their thrust into the enterprise software market with their recent acquisition and expansion of their security software.  As they do so, they enter a crowded space led by industry titans such as Symantec.

To get a feel as to how entrenched competitors are reacting to the expansion plans of an otherwise industry compliment, the Wiglaf Journal posed some questions to Symantec’s senior management.  Brian Foster, Senior Director of Product Management for Symantec’s Endpoint Security Group, was kind enough to respond.

WJ: Symantec has been a long-time leader in the field of computer security. What strategic moves have you made in the last year to propel yourself further forward for the next 24 months?

BF: One of the fundamental moves Symantec has made recently was to invest in technologies that allow us to catch threats without ever having seen that threat before.  We acquired a company called WholeSecurity that made behavior blocking technology that we have since integrated into our consumer and enterprise security software.  We have also built technologies like Generic Exploit Blocking which, once again, focus on catch unknown threats before they even get to the machine.  In today’s threat environment, threats move too quickly to solely rely on signature based approaches.

WJ: Microsoft has long been identified as a light-weight in the field of computer security.  How much of a threat do you see their entrance into your field?

BF: As long as Microsoft competes fairly, we feel comfortable that we can compete and win.  We have a long history of understanding both our customer requirements and the threat environment in order to deliver effective solutions to market.

WJ: It can be said that the best security application is one that keeps you absolutely bullet-proof safe, but you never notice it because nothing ever goes wrong.  What is different about the brand value position of something that the user shouldn’t notice?

BF: How we operate on the enterprise side is different than how we sell to consumers.  Regarding our enterprise products, we don’t sell to the individual end- users at a company, we sell to the person or team responsible for IT security management.  We know that the IT security team has to balance user productivity with securing the company’s information to meet compliance and prevent damage to its brand and reputation.  Ultimately, the customer has to manage IT risk and efficiency.

Now often someone who uses the consumer version of a Symantec product at home who has had a positive experience may reach out to Symantec based on Symantec’s reputation in the security market or because he/she used Symantec enterprise security products at previous jobs.  But that’s as far as reputation can take it, most of the decision-making will be based on their experiences testing or using the actual product.

WJ: How is differentiating a Symantec’s product from Microsoft’s significantly different from differentiating other software applications, such as ACT vs. Salesforce.com, Quickbooks vs. Peachtree, Dreamweaver vs. Pagemaker, etc.

BF: The key differentiation point that we make is that security must be a layered approach.  Security solutions can not stand pat but need to continually evolve as the new threats are created by the bad guys. Symantec is not only a long-standing leader in the security business we also work to maintain that leadership. Through our knowledge of what new threats are evolving from our broad and deep Global Intelligence Network we can either develop or acquire and integrate new technologies to help protect our customers

WJ: How is competing against Microsoft different from competing with the other, more entrenched industry competitors?

BF: One of the attributes that makes Microsoft unique from a competitive standpoint is that they are also our biggest partner.  Most of our customers use our software on their platform.  Therefore, it is imperative that we get along with Microsoft and have relationship that is focused on jointly solving customer problems.

WJ: Can you talk a bit about how Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) play into the computer security software application market.

BF: We encourage our customers to look at third parties to evaluate our software against our competitors.  Because Symantec’s reputation is so well-established around the world, we’re not left out of comparative evaluations.  Symantec is a fixture in the comparative tests such as those conducted by Virus Bulletin, AV-Test.org (http://www.av-test.org/), Thompson Cyber Security Labs.

WJ: Clearly, Symantec is positioning itself at the High Value end of the scale.  Can you share your opinion as to why it is more important for companies that sell based on High-Value to invest in marketing and PR than it is for companies selling based upon Low-Price.

BF: Certainly from Symantec’s standpoint, we are selling the security market’s premium products.  This environment is constantly changing, and Symantec, through its Global Intelligence Network, is best prepared to actively monitor and track existing and new threats.  We use that information and work with our customers to ensure that our security evolve as their needs evolve.



About the author

Tim J. Smith, PhD is the Managing Principal of Wiglaf Pricing, and an Adjunct Professor at DePaul University of Marketing and Economics. His most recent book is Pricing Strategy: Setting Price Levels, Managing Price Discounts, & Establishing Price Structures.

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