Why diversify or die' doesn't always ring true

Kirill Slavin explains why focus can beat diversification in a fast-evolving market place.

Why diversify or die' doesn't always ring true
Why diversify or die' doesn't always ring true

Recently the IT security and business community woke up to the news that the largest company in the industry had made the decision to split its business into two separate units. While this probably came as a surprise to many, for me the announcement was always only ever a matter of time.

You just need to look back a few years to realise that the temptation to expand into new markets has always been there. Some of the world's largest technology enterprises have tried with varying results. Remember HP & Palm?

We've always known that the world of IT Security is vast enough for us to dedicate all our manpower to it, without the risk of ever running out of new fascinating areas to understand and protect. We were confident that the constant growth and demand for IT protection, from new and traditional industries, would always keep us busy.

A diversifying landscape

You only have to look back at the past five years to see how the opportunity and need for security has grown. In only a few years the concept of IT Security has progressed from PCs to Macs to Mobiles, and more recent introductions such as SCADA and critical infrastructure protection has re-defined the types of industries that now need constant protection online, in order to protect what they do offline. The lines have blurred.

Today not even the Internet of Things sounds particularly futuristic and we've truly accepted that connectivity now is in our cars, our homes and our favourite gadgets. No doubt, even this popular buzz term will soon be replaced by the Internet of Everything, and as biology and technology is moving closer together, this may soon also include us as connected human beings.

The old adage says ‘diversify or die' and, as a general rule, in business it's difficult to disagree. But, perhaps it's time to re-define the framework for what diversification really means, and who should or shouldn't consider it. Confusing? Let me try to explain.

Most successful businesses will, at some stage, face the situation where there may be an opportunity to increase revenues by expanding into a new field. However, like any new business venture, with this opportunity comes a number of risks, and, in some cases these risks can outweigh the potential gains. We realised early on that arguably the real opportunity lies in staying true to what we know, doing this better, and broader, than before.

Why focus is the key to success

As the number and sophistication levels of attacks keeps increasing, it was always evident that the digital world needs all the protection it can get and that there is enough room for a multitude of vendors to co-exist. Ultimately it's about helping people and businesses protect themselves.

The famous Italia car visionary Enzo Ferrari had a vision we'd agree with, that even a smaller company can build world-leading technology to battle with the giants. Looking at what companies like Space X, Tesla and Uber have done to challenge the incumbents in well-established industries, there is more proof points that building deeper expertise in one area often becomes the winning formula. In some situations diversification could even become a matter of ‘diversify and die'.

I started this column saying that it came as no surprise when the world's largest IT security company recently came to the same realisation: IT security deserves and requires both focus and dedication. It's the most important message we can send to the business community as we continue focusing on what we do best – protecting what people and businesses value most.  When I look at the bigger picture it would be wrong not to say ‘good luck and welcome back to the cause'.

Contributed by Kirill Slavin, general manager at Kaspersky Lab