Sunday, August 07, 2005

Case In Point

At least it's not just us.

A recent article by Dave Kearns accurately, succinctly, painted a picture of what happens when a company with good technology and poor marketing & direction forces its customers to evaluate it's direction.

Coventry University just went through this exercise. Someone - probably at Microsoft's bequest - started asking "What does all of this Novell stuff really buy us?" Nobody had a good answer, so out with the Red "N", and in with the Evil Empire.

The formula for fixing this is very easy. Nothing groundbreaking here, the model exists in plenty of places. Cisco and Microsoft have proven unequivocally that style over substance works. Neither have the best technologies, but both do the best job of selling it. Do they win every deal? Probably not. But once someone calls Cisco or Microsoft, the deal is probably already theirs to lose.

Novell's sales process - pre, and post - is more often than not, abysmially amateur. They don't know how to sell into organizations at the right levels. They can't put together an effective message to CxO level executives. Making matters worse, Novell is now incenting (pressuring) their sales force to meet their sales targets with more than 66% new business.

There are bigger problems. They can't even get people working on the same campus to talk to each other enough to agree on management interfaces, password management, OS Service Pack levels, or Java Virtual Machine version requirements (don't get me started on Java). This certainly makes it harder for sales people and SE's to make a compelling argument with new or existing customers.

Perhaps the biggest problem Novell faces is the nearly insurmountable obstacles it continually throws in front of IT professionals that need to develop skills with their products. You can go virtually anywhere and find MCSE's, CCNA's, CCNE's, etc. to administer and manage Microsoft and Cisco networks. Last week, I created a two-disk mirror by adding hot-swap drives to a running Win2K server that was low on space. I'd never done it before in my life. I understood the basic concepts of initializing disks, creating a logical volume, assigning drive letters, etc. The GUI's in Win2K made it so mind-numbingly easy that anyone who couldn't do it should never be allowed in a server room.

Conversely, try to find a CNE in a market like Tulsa. See how many people know Nterprise Branch Office or NetWare Clustering. Even in markets like Dallas and Houston, there is not a very deep talent pool. Novell training classes are very, very expensive. $2,500 a week is a lot of money for a company to invest in what currently amounts to a niche skill set. It's hard enough for companies to short themselves an engineer for a week on purpose. Put that price tag on it, and multiply it by more than one technician who would need training, and the TCO figures that Novell always touts dwindle quickly.

I want so very badly for Novell to become the company that it can and should be. It has so much to learn, and so far to go.

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