Drew Lydecker, AVANT President, on Trusted Advisers, Pathfinder, and Cybersec

Written by Gabriela Vatu
Last updated February 3, 2020

Over a decade ago, Drew Lydecker decided that enterprises needed a little bit of help to figure out what type of cyber solutions they required, so he set up AVANT.

Nowadays, the company helps clients sift through the wealth of IT solutions with the help of so-called Trusted Advisors - folks that know what companies need and how they're going to get it to stay safe. Not too long ago, Pathfinder was created so that Trusted Advisors had the perfect tool to do their job.

We had a chat with Drew Lydecker, AVANT President and founder, about what his company does, Trusted Advisors, Pathfinder, and the current cyber landscape, with all the threats and dangers.

TechNadu: Let's start off with you telling us why you chose to create AVANT in the first place. What was the drive behind this decision?

Drew Lydecker: For all intents and purposes, we saw a market that was emerging in so many different technology areas. Looking at the overall master agent industry, we saw that sales enablement tools and a unique approach to the business of master agents were so needed and AVANT could come in and fill a gap in the industry that had not been addressed from an enablement perspective. That’s how the idea for AVANT was created.

Our dream was to build a platform that enabled the Trusted Advisor community to have more tools, resources, and research than they’ve ever had before. At AVANT, we believe that the market for Trusted Advisors would only get more and more powerful as the pace of that change keeps getting faster. There is an acceleration of disruption all around in next-generation IT. AVANT put together the ideas and away we went to create our future proof platform for the Trusted Advisor to tap into to be able to monetize this market.

TechNadu: Your company has so-called Trusted Advisors that help clients navigate the changes the industry is going through. How exactly do they do this and what is the end-goal?

Drew Lydecker: The job of today’s Trusted Advisor is to essentially go into the enterprise accounts and help enterprise IT leaders understand all of the disruptors that exist today. They’re challenging the 10-year playbook and showing where the new model is going and where the new tech is going. Trusted Advisors train using AVANT and our platform. They train on what the trends are, where the markets are going, what types of technologies are emerging - from cloud to cybersecurity to next-gen connectivity like SD-WAN. They can do all of that through AVANT.

The real role of that Trusted Advisor today is to come in and identify problems inside a business. It could be a company looking to evolve and transform, but whatever the enterprise customer’s needs, the Trusted Advisor is going to guide them through it. They can utilize our tools, research, engineers, back office, pricing analysts to do that.

The thing about the Trusted Advisor and why they are becoming so powerful is that they are the most knowledgeable about this rapid rate of change. They come into an enterprise account and really become an extension of that company’s IT staff. That's the key. They support them for the life of any contract that they're helping them navigate. If they're moving from an on-premise phone system and move to the cloud, the Trusted Advisor has the ability to not only identify all the potential fits but also recommend who makes the most sense as a technology partner for the end customer. Once they decide who to go with the Trusted Advisor will act as the lead support for the life of that contract.

TechNadu: You also have the AVANT Pathfinder in your portfolio. How does it work and how is it helping companies?

Drew Lydecker: The Pathfinder is a massive tool for the Trusted Advisors to be able to train themselves but also to show their customers where they receive that training and understanding of the market. Pathfinder is a decision-making tool that enables Trusted Advisors to walk enterprises through options for their IT spend. It can compare everything from different Security-as-a-Service offerings to showing locations and features of data centers worldwide, to mapping out fiber lines connected to a company's own office building. Pathfinder acts as a gateway to the research and analytics that AVANT provides the Trusted Advisor community and provides them with real-world data to help their enterprise customers make the best decisions. There’s a tremendous amount of engineering that’s in the Pathfinder and it has really become the most powerful tool for the Trusted Advisor in our industry today.

TechNadu: Can companies then implement whatever solutions the Pathfinder discovers on their own or do they need further assistance?

Drew Lydecker: The Trusted Advisor will provide their enterprise customers with the solutions that the Pathfinder tool discovers and then guide them through the implementation process. While the Trusted Advisor and Pathfinder come together, the tool allows for a collaborative approach to implementing next-generation technology by acting as the one-stop-shop, not only for the Trusted Advisor but for the end customer. Through Pathfinder, the Trusted Advisor and end customer are able to go into things like the dynamic matrix and then, based on what the customer is looking to accomplish, can down select in a matter of seconds to find potential fit. Pathfinder is also a great place to see what other people are doing and how they are doing it from use cases and videos. The tool also has AI and machine-based learning to crowdsource what is happening in the community from all collective peers of the Trusted Advisor community.

TechNadu: In your company's experience, what are some of the biggest threats to companies' security? Talking about threats, how do you see the current cyber-landscape? Are the cyberattacks getting more powerful, better directed, better financed? How do you see things after working in the industry for so long?

Drew Lydecker: Unfortunately, it pays to be a bad guy right now in the cyberworld. The actors are all sorts of people from inside threats to state-sponsored cybercrime -- which makes up about 43% of what’s happening today in the market. The threats are coming from all over. The tools to be able to become a cybercriminal are very prevalent and easier and cheaper than ever before. State actors are now behind a lot of the cyber threats today - for various reasons - whether it’s stealing intellectual property or hurting a particular industry. Cyberthreats are coming from everywhere and constantly becoming more sophisticated and more powerful. It can be very difficult for most IT staff to keep up with it. Applying traditional go-to-market cybersecurity equipment and software is just not cutting it anymore. And that’s why we’re seeing a real emergence of the MSSP market and companies that are taking steps that end customers can’t do on their own. This is a huge growth part of our business.

TechNadu: What about you... what steps do you take to secure your personal information? What are some steps that regular people, not enterprises, should take to stay safe?

Drew Lydecker: Personal security is a lot of different things. At AVANT, we use all of our providers and make sure that we take steps to have the best of the best. Protecting everything that is critical to AVANT and critical to us personally, is the number one focus of ours internally. We can’t continue to provide top of the line cybersecurity resources to our Trusted Advisors without securing our own ecosystem first.

TechNadu: What do we have to look forward to from AVANT over the next year?

Drew Lydecker: 2020 is going to be a big year for us. We believe that the Trusted Advisor movement will really take another massive leap forward. Last year we put out our first annual State of Disruption Report. Of the 300 CIOs surveyed in that report, 82 percent of them responded that they will be utilizing a Trusted Advisor. In 2020, we will continue to be extremely aggressive in our research and analytics departments to provide even more resources for the Trusted Advisor and CIO communities. We’re going to make some massive enhancements to our pathfinder tool and continue to keep investing in people here at AVANT. 2020 is looking like a massive growth year for us.

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