Novell Emphasizes Solution Sales

A more aggressive, more committed vendor emerging from annual partner summit

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While light on product wizardry, Novell's annual partner summit, under way this week in Palm Springs, Calif., is sure heavy on relationship building and sales and marketing strategy. In particular, the company devoted a great deal of time here on giving shape and definition to the oft taken for granted notion of solutions selling.

Speaking Tuesday at the company's opening kickoff presentation for an estimated 200 partners, Novell CEO Jack Messman told partners that there is nearly $3 billion in untapped market opportunity that Novell alone cannot touch. As a result, he vows, his company will become more partner-centric in 2002 in order to capture that business. Furthermore, the company will do this at a time when its top competitor, Microsoft, appears to be "heading the other way," he says.

Among other things, Messman and other Novell managers say they will make the most of partner discontent with Microsoft, and, in particular, some of its recent changes related to product licensing, service expansion and partner management turnover. In fact, the new Novell team plans to come out aggressively against Microsoft and others that misrepresent the company's position in the market. Unlike past years when Novell was reluctant to challenge its nemesis head on, Novell will take advantage of Microsoft's missteps, says Craig Miller, vice president and general manager of Novell's Net Management group.

Miller's colleague, Novell vice president of sales and marketing Troy Money, treated attendees to a glimpse of forthcoming advertisements, which the company plans to spend heavily on, that challenge Microsoft's leadership. One upcoming ad, for example, asks ".Net?" The answer, supplied by Novell: "Not yet." Another advertisement will attempt to simplify Microsoft's new licensing scheme for customers in a photo of a mock-up road sign that warns travelers of a toll booth ahead and the need to be prepared to shell out tons of money

Humor aside, Novell took great pains to make its case for solutions selling here at the partner summit, something that's taken on new meaning since the company merged with Cambridge Technology Partners, a leader in solutions delivery that many partners feared would ultimately compete with them for business. Stewart Nelson, executive vice president and chief operating officer at the company, says partners are quickly discovering the CTP side of Novell's business to be an asset, not a detraction from their Novell partnership. Working from the assumption that the Internet will never consolidate into one homogeneous network but instead continue to evolve as a heterogeneous network running atop multiple operating software systems tied together with Novell one Net software, Nelson made the case that CTP can in no way address a fraction of the potential market.

One presentation Tuesday, in particular, made an effort to drive that point home. Delivered by Marty Deise, senior vice president of solutions at the company, the presentation attempted to define solutions selling and the distinct processes involved in it. The clear message: with Novell, you can deliver both business and technology solutions. To that end, the company described four projects Novell, CTP and others collaborated on to create new solutions. One was a secure partner portal, another was an identity provisioning solution for Peoplesoft, yet another was an active employee information portal, and the fourth was what Deise describes as a rapid technology rationalization solution, which Novell describes as a "technology neutral consulting service that identifies immediate and actionable opportunities to reduce IT costs, improve operational efficiency and free up resources and assets to focus on higher return activities." These, of course, embody four of Novell's JumpStart solutions. According to company presentations, they are expected to be joined by additional Jumpstart solutions that address business process management for government users, identity provisioning for SAP HR application and something called FindItin, which Novell describes as a solution that can help state governments throughout the United States connect local businesses, consumers and government agencies.

These efforts were of particular interest to attendees, including Tech Data pre-sales specialist John Travlos, who says, "The more they can do to demonstrate how they play well with other companies in complete solutions sales, the better luck they will have with executive-level decision makers."

Likewise, Tommy Cathey, manager of strategic relations with Blue Lance, a computer security software vendor, says he is encouraged by what he saw Tuesday in the California desert resort town.

"As a third party that has been close to Novell for more than a decade, we are very excited by the solutions approach," Cathey says. "We just need to understand exactly what role a small ISV like us plays in the company's new vision."

Throughout Tuesday, Novell hoped to provide answers when possible. Conference attendees were provided great details on Novell's plans and strategies. Channel partners, in particular, were provided roadmaps designed to steer them to specific revenue opportunities. Novell's Net Management group, for example, provided information on its strategy to help partners help customers manage their diverse enterprises via one Net as a way to reduce IT costs and maximize ROI. The message was designed to compliment the company's existing Rapid Technology Rationalization Solution. To that end, the company plans to continue to promote NetWare 6 as the ideal platform for creating a one Net environment; ZENworks as the ideal solution for managing desktops, servers and mobile devices across a network; GroupWise as a communication and collaboration tool to make all of that easier; and Workspace as the tool that allows end users to work across multiple teams by putting the right resources for each person all in one place.

While much of what the company discusses has already been unveiled, several new initiatives were addressed. For example, the company described a new campaign to drive revenue for the Novell ZENworks Synergy product. It will begin this February and center around 15 activities that rely on electronic marketing, event marketing and sales, and channel training.

While lacking some of the technology wizardry traditionally demonstrated at other vendor partner gatherings, Novell is clearly using the event as a partner-building opportunity. Messman, in particular, hopes to drive that message home. In an attempt to be a more predictable partner, he says, Novell will continue to provide greater clarity as to where its direct salesforce will go. Likening the effort to a game of eight ball, in which players must call their shots, Messman said members of his company's direct salesforce must first declare their intentions--call their shots, if you will--before they will receive credit for any sales.

"This will drive our partner relationship development and account management activity and make sure our direct sales force does not poach on your accounts," he said.

For its renewed commitment to partners, Novell expects greater cooperation among partners, he says. In particular, he says, Novell wants greater feedback.

"One thing I want you to go away with is thisNovell has changed direction and momentum is increasing," he said in closing his remarks.

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