Some Partners Question Novell's Channel Loyalty

David Balcar, owner of NSI, said he did not attend the Novell conference for the first time in 10 years because he is angry about Novell's treatment of NSI.

"They don't treat their Platinum partners very well anymore," he said. "I got snowed by them all this year and most of last year."

Balcar said that Novell assumed control over one of his accounts last year even though it did not qualify for named-account status. As a result, he lost his license renewal fee and almost his services business with that customer because of what he claims was account mismanagement by Novell. In fact, Balcar said the customer seriously considered moving to IBM Lotus products.

In another letdown for Houston-based NSI, Balcar said Novell handed a lead for a job in his backyard to a partner based in California. "They are picking favorites," he said.

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Another Platinum partner with 200 active Novell accounts did not attend BrainShare because of Hurricane Katrina-related issues.

"We used to get some sales support from Novell, but now we get little support," said Bill Long, president of Integrated Network Systems, New Orleans, adding that he has not seen or heard from Novell since his former Novell business partner executive stopped calling last October. "Even if there is a project in an area where we're good at, like GroupWise and Zenworks, they'll call another partner in another state, another reseller like me, rather than call us to do the implementation."

Novell Chairman and CEO Jack Messman and Novell President Ron Hovsepian last week acknowledged that organizational changes that went into effect in November may be impacting sales and services for some partners. They both, however, stressed there is no attempt to cut the channel out of services.

Messman said many partners are selling into Novell enterprise accounts. Furthermore, he said, just because Novell designates a named account doesn't mean there is no partner in it.

"When there is a conflict, we resolve it," he said. "I'd rather pay two commissionsone to our sales force and one to theirsrather than lose the business," he said.

"Some channel partners have complained we are competing with them in our consulting, but you have to put the numbers in perspective," Messman said. "There's $400 million to $500 million worth of services business, and we're only capturing $150 million of it. We need the channel. The channel should not look at us as the enemy."

One partner who requested anonymity, however, asked why Novell is offering services at all. "Why don't they give the $150 million [in services business] to partners?" he said.

Paul Anderson, CEO of longtime Novell partner Novacoast, Santa Barbara, Calif., said Novell is assigning the right partner for the job, regardless of that solution provider's location or territory.

"I have never seen Novell specifically move into an area where there's already another strong Novell partner. Why would they do that?" Anderson said. "Where they feel they have a lack of coverage in a specific geography, [they] encourage any Novell partners to expand into that area if they have the resources and desire to do so. It's just stupid to think Novell would actively displace one strong partner for another."

Novell acknowledged that its partner selection process may have been impacted by redistricting and territory changes announced last November. But the company denied that it's showing unfair preference to a handful of partners.