You say that when you joined Sophos the company was underperforming - why take on the challenge?
I thought the firm had a great set of bones. It had great products, very high customer satisfaction rates, and very high partner satisfactions rates. The downside is that the company had been flat on a like-for-like basis, which is terrible for a technology company. If a technology company isn't growing, it's dying.
What did you think you could bring to Sophos that it did not have before?
When I looked at Sophos, I saw an amazing opportunity to take these strong bones and strong foundation, and give a bit of a Silicon Valley jolt to the place, so we could think more boldly about what we could become as a company and bring a little bit of a swagger.
We don't have to be a mild-mannered, humble UK company. We actually have the potential to be a legitimate global leader if we take this strong foundation and start adding a little bit of the healthy paranoia that Silicon Valley companies have, and the commitment to constantly accelerating innovation.
What problems did you identify when you started at Sophos, and how well do you think you have done in the time that you've been here?
One of the questions I get from people a lot is ‘how is it that a 30-year-old company, with $500m of billings, can start to act more like a start-up company and start to grow again after being flat for so many years?'
When we assembled as an executive team four years ago, we sat around a table and said ‘security is a huge market, we've got great products, but we're not super-well known and one of the problems we've been having is that we're trying to do a little of everything. We're doing too many products, we're trying to sell to large enterprises and we're trying to sell to mid-market enterprises. We're selling direct a little bit and we're selling through the channel a little bit.'
We wanted to come up with a mission that we truly believe we could accomplish and this is what we came up with - to be the best in the world at delivering this complete security portfolio to mid-market enterprises and the channel that serves them.
"One of the questions I get from people a lot is ‘how is it that a 30-year-old company, with $500m of billings, can start to act more like a start-up company and start to grow again after being flat for so many years?'"
You also switched to a 100 per cent channel strategy - how important has that been?
The distinction between being a channel-only company and a ‘channel-is-part-of-our-strategy' company is dramatic.
If you think about virtually every other major security vendor, first and foremost they are led by directors who are direct-sales orientated. The main play that they run is direct sales, with the channel bolted onto the side. The best and the brightest in these organisations don't go into the channel, they try to go into the direct sales organisation.
Our partners know that if we don't make them successful, we have no avenue. It's not like we have a plan A and B, where if the channel works, great, but if it doesn't we've got this other route to market that we'll be fine with. If the channel doesn't work for us, we're toast.
You say that Sophos' ‘synchronised security' offering is unique in that it allows network security and end-point security to communicate. If this is such a significant development, why has no one done it before?
First and foremost, you have had vendors that grew up in one silo or the other. They grew up as an end-point company or they grew up as a network company and they got really, really good at one of those. But when they tried the other one they would almost always fail because they could not make it work internally.
The other part is, it just turns out that it's hard. It is hard because there is so much information that gets created and you have to be able to have that information get shared at a very meaningful level. In order to do that, you have to have agreement around certain definitions, and how you refer to policies, and how you refer to devices... all of it has to work together.
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