Symantec COO: We're Going To Focus On Bringing New Products To Market


Symantec's top executives fielded questions from employees on Friday about the abrupt ousting of CEO Steve Bennett, and said the company would focus heavily on bringing new products to market as the board of directors seek a new chief executive.

In an interview with CRN on Friday, Stephen Gillett, Symantec's executive vice president and chief operating officer and driver of the company's recently recalibrated channel activities, said the board of directors decided it was time to return to growth in an accelerated fashion to meet market demands. Symantec's focus moving forward will be to execute on product innovation and bringing new products to market, Gillett said.

Symantec's board of directors appointed Michael Brown as interim president and chief executive officer on Thursday, in an move that shocked many Symantec employees, including Gillett. Brown is accomplished at being a stabilizing presence, according to Gillett, who said he will be a knowledgeable leader and organizer during the company's transition.

Brown joined Symantec's board of directors following the company's merger with storage giant Veritas Software in July 2005. Gillett said he worked with Brown in 2012 during his tenure on the company's board of directors.

[Related: Symantec Internal Memo: Pace Of Change Was Too Slow]

"[Brown] will be focused on keeping forward momentum and not stalling as we focus on product activities and accelerating growth," Gillett said.

Gillett, who joined Symantec in December 2012 after holding senior executive positions at Best Buy and Starbucks, has a deep technical background, having worked in information technology nearly his entire career. He said the Symantec's engineering teams have all the pieces in place to build out the portfolio and bring new products to market.  

When Bennett took the helm in July 2012, he did a lot of streamlining at Symantec via his Symantec 4.0 strategy, including making the company's product teams report directly to him. Bennett has previously told CRN that move was aimed at boosting productivity and accelerating innovation, but Gillett said Symantec's board of directors didn't feel this would enable the the company to bring new products to market quickly enough.

Gillett said the "apparatus and cadence that allows development cycles to be met happen regardless of who is at the top operationally."

Under Brown, Symantec's project engineering, technical support and research and development activities will all be getting more attention, Gillett said. Symantec's executive team is working on a revised list of priorities for its fiscal 2015 strategy and product roadmap, he said.

"The organizational structure, in reporting to Steve, did little in the way of blocking or changing dramatically the progress we're making in the product roadmaps, integrating our point products combined with new technology development," Gillett said. "There is nothing I see or know that will be coming that should be cause for any concern for our progress to change." 

Gillett urged partners to be patient as the board of directors conducts its search for a new CEO. He said he is an advocate of the channel, having procured goods and services from partners. A consistent effort is being made behind the scenes in transforming Symantec into a channel led organization, Gillett said. "That importance of that effort has been reinforced to me by our interim CEO," he said.

Symantec partners tell CRN that they have welcomed the organizational changes and say its time to reveal more details about the company's newly integrated product offerings. Time will tell how this will work out for Symantec, said John Woodall, vice president of engineering at Integrated Archive Systems (IAS), a Palo Alto, Calif.-based solution provider and Symantec channel partner.

"We'll have to wait for Symantec 5.0," Woodall said. "We'll need time to see how the company does. But whoever comes in to replace Bennett will have to define the company's strategy quickly and communicate its plans. This market is too volatile on too many levels."

Symantec is not going away, Woodall said. "It's a strong company. For us now, it's business as usual."

CRN Senior Editor Joseph F. Kovar contributed to this report