Novell aims to remake image: Will it work?

Summary:The challenge for Bob Flynn, president and general manager of Novell, is that he has to convince his established base and new customers that the company has evolved even as it has been largely quiet for the last 18 months or so.

Novell is plotting a coming out party of sorts as it tries to reposition its brand, innovate and build on legacy products. The starter set for Novell's strategy will be launched at its BrainShare conference on Monday.

In a nutshell, Novell's plan is to focus more on secure mobility, collaboration, file and management services and endpoint application management. The challenge for Bob Flynn, president and general manager of Novell, is that he has to convince his established base and new customers that the company has evolved even as it has been largely quiet for the last 18 months or so.

filr
Filr: The future of Novell?

Novell was acquired by The Attachmate Group, which is a holding company for Novell, Attachmate, NetIQ and SUSE, in April 2011. SUSE and Novell were separated and today Novell's core products revolve around collaboration (Groupwise), products like ZENworks Configuration Manager and NetWare and file management systems.

The first product for the next-gen Novell is called Filr, it's essentially a Dropbox-type app for the enterprise. "With Filr a user can access and manage files on any device any time in managed environment," said Flynn. Filr will be generally available next week in the second quarter.

flynn

We caught up with Flynn to talk shop. Here's the rundown:

  • Does the Novell brand hurt or help his cause? "The biggest challenge is the brand. It's a blessing and a curse and I have to help the marketplace understand this is a different Novell," said Flynn. "My job is to put the Novell brand back in the marketplace. It has taken a beating over the last 8 to 10 to 15 years."
  • Have customers stayed with Novell? Flynn didn't have any hard numbers and comparisons could be tricky given SUSE isn't part of Novell any more. In general, Flynn said Novell has stemmed defections.
  • Can Novell keep customers? Flynn added that the company's early moves after that Attachmate deal was to double the size of its sales force to about 150 to 200 people globally. In addition, Novell's product portfolio was trimmed so there's more focus today. "Job one was to focus on basic blocking and tackling," he said.
  • Will Novell innovate? That's the plan, said Flynn. He said that customers and Novell's partner base noted the company had core assets that could be a platform for new products. Mobility and Filr are the first efforts to display innovation from Novell. Flynn added that 30 percent of Novell's engineering resources are focused on new products. That percentage is likely to go higher.
  • Can Novell woo new customers? Flynn said Novell has been marketing to its existing customer base with everything from airport advertising to customer sessions and roadshows. In April, Novell plans to begin pitching new customers beyond its established base. "We've been solely focused on the customer base and now will look to expansion," he said.
  • Should we buy that idea that this new Novell is forming? Flynn acknowledged that Novell will have skeptics. "We have to get word back out in the market and deliver proof points," said Flynn. "I can market my brains out, but we need to deliver." Novell will have to deliver case studies, proof points and real metrics to show it is back on track.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Collaboration, Mobility, Networking

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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