With turnaround “complete”, BlackBerry's new APJ head eyes deeper security role

Focus on security software has changed the nature of customer engagements for onetime mobile vendor

Progressive Australian businesses are proactively integrating their applications with the growing array of security controls BlackBerry has acquired and developed in its reinvention as an enabler for secure mobility, the company's newly appointed regional head has said as results show sales of its security software oustripping its hardware sales for the first time.

Strong sales growth in Australia has mirrored broadly positive results around the world and the company is “very proud” that its shift away from reliance on once-dominant BlackBerry smartphones – now niche products in a market dominated by Apple and Google's Android platform, which BlackBerry has also adopted in its security-conscious Priv – has been a success.

“The turnaround is now complete,” APJ vice president Paul Crighton, who took over the reins of the local operation late last year, told CSO Australia. “We're now a global leader in the security software business, and we happen to sell devices.”

That turnaround has been driven by a raft of high-profile security acquisitions in recent years including the $US425m ($A557m) acquisition of mobile device management (MDM) giant Good Technology, the purchase of mobile-alerting vendor AtHoc to complement its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), and the acquisition of secure document exchange specialist WatchDox to strengthen BlackBerry's mobile-collaboration and data-protection credentials.

These acquisitions give BlackBerry a more compelling proposition for customers that have already bought heavily into the security of BBM and the strength of BlackBerry's own MDM offering, Crighton said.

“When we speak with customers they all say pretty much the same thing,” he explained. “They say the biggest problem they have is securing their critical information – their customer information, contract information, their business roadmaps. It's all well and good securing it inside the firewall, but what happens when it gets out – when it's in email or in the wild in general?”

WatchDox enables restrictions on access to documents through embedded security that allows control over document access based on location, time of day, limited lifespan and other criteria. These tools, which function standalone but are also being linked into BlackBerry's expanding secure-mobility ecosystem, are being increasingly adopted by enterprise customers that are leveraging the company's software development kit (SDK) to link their applications into that secure ecosystem.

Pointing to the appeal of its new core value proposition, Blackberry recently announced a raft of ANZ customers including moving services provider SIRVA, specialist insurance provider Catholic Church Insurance, New Zealand law firm Buddle Findlay, and Sydney's Macquarie University – which is using AtHoc to deliver a mass-messaging platform for its 43,000 students and staff.

BlackBerry's overriding philosophy is “to enable the CISO to make business decisions without being hamstrung by the security challenges,” Crighton said. “CISOs know they're probably going to have a data breach at some stage – so they're considering the value of their information and how they are going to contain it.”

The turnaround comes on the back of major restructuring by CEO John Chen, who has cut around $US100m from the company's costs but couldn't keep revenues from slipping 39 percent year-on-year in its latest full-year results announcement. Software revenues, however, grew in the first quarter of fiscal 2017 to $US166m ($A218m) and BlackBerry noted it had won more than 10,000 enterprise customers during fiscal 2016.

“The challenge for security companies like ourselves is going to be to stay ahead of the bad guys,” Crighton said. “One of the strengths we have is the ability to have lots of different solutions depending on what the customer's posture is, and that doesn't have to be on-premises only. This [evolving platform] allows end users to adopt a mobile-first experience without having to worry about the underlying plumbing of all these security elements.”

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Tags security acquisitionsWatchDoxsecurity software businessAPJsecure mobilityPaul Crightonsecurity softwareCSO Australianetwork securityBlackberrysecurity roleDavid Braue

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