CEO Claims 3Com's Time To Lead Is Now

3Com president andCEO Bruce Claflin pledged during the 3Com live conference earlier this month that the Marlborough, Mass., company will boost its marketing efforts and create more leads hor partners. He spoke with Infrastructure Editor Jennifer Hagendorf Follett about how the company is better poised to win business and gain market share. Excerpts follow.

CRN: Partners still see a lot of resistance in the customer base to 3Com since you pulled out of and then re-entered the enterprise market. How long does it take to overcome that?

Claflin: I don't think it gets measured in time; it gets measured by success in the marketplace. Nothing sells better than success, and as we demonstrate growth, as we win accounts, those concerns evaporate. ... I think as we continue to demonstrate that we're fulfilling our product lines, adding capabilities, winning accounts, the questions from the last century begin to go away.

CRN: Why has it taken so long to address 3Com's marketing problem? Partners have been asking for more marketing from the company for a while.

Claflin: At the risk of being defensive, the 3Com brand is one of the most widely known brands in the networking industry. When we do brand surveys and talk about 'favorable' and 'unfavorable,' it tends to have very high and favorable ratings, so I'm not going to apologize for what we've done. It's one of the most powerful brands in the IT industry. Having said it, I think there's more that can be done to make it relevant, and relevant particularly to [C]-level executives who are making major technology decisions. ... We are committed to being a full-line provider of products and solutions to the enterprise, and that is not a capability that the company really has had as a core mission of the company ever, and so we need to make sure that that is known and understood by these policy-level executives, and that's where the marketing will go.

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CRN: Are you expecting to make market-share gains this year?

Claflin: Yes, absolutely.

CRN: At whose expense will those come? What competitors?

Claflin: Well, it's interesting. Obviously with Cisco and their size and share, you would say some has to come out of Cisco ... but frankly I think in the near term, some of the bigger share gains may come out of some of Cisco's smaller competitors. I have this image in my mind of the old cartoon characters, two big giants trying to slug each other, and their punches miss but they hit the poor innocent bystander. So we view Cisco as the strategic competitor, but when we look at our win/loss report, we are beginning to see lots of wins [against] Enterasys, Foundry, even Extreme, now that we've announced our higher-end switch products.

CRN: What about VoIP?

Claflin: With voice you have a different set of competitors. Obviously Cisco is one, but there you're going to run into Avaya and Nortel in the larger accounts, and at the lower end we typically see Mitel or companies like that.

CRN: So how does the concept that market-share gains will come from smaller competitors jive with your keynote remarks that 3Com can become the leader and basically unseat Cisco?

Claflin: You target the leader of the industry, and you're better than the leader in the industry, [so] odds are you're going to beat the laggards pretty well, too. That's the idea.

CRN: That goal of becoming the leader—what's the time frame for when you could become a market-share leader over Cisco?

Claflin: Who knows? Who knows? And by the way, it's not necessarily you're the market-share leader over Cisco, but you become a clear, clear, major supplier in the industry. ... The environment we're talking about [is] where the CIO instantly thinks when going out to bid, 'I'm inviting Cisco and 3Com.' Get to that environment and, trust me, we will win a lot of deals.

CRN: But you don't think you'll be able to overcome Cisco's market share?

Claflin: I didn't say that, but I'm obviously not going to forecast numbers. Let me tell you what I will say: It's less about the market share. We are superior to Cisco today. It's not going to be in the future. If you want to know what day did we pass Cisco in superiority, write it down: today. We are superior to Cisco today. If you want to buy a converged network today, we are superior to them. If you want it to be secure, we are superior to them. Today. So you can write it first and put it in a headline, '3Com Passed Cisco Today.' The market share will follow.