US Report: Claflin outlines 3Com role

3Com's newly named chief operating officer and president Bruce Claflin will "hit the ground" running on August 10 when he assumes the top operational spot left open at the networking company by Robert Finocchio last spring.

Although Claflin, Digital's senior vice president and group executive for worldwide sales and marketing, sited family upheaval as the reason for turning down a post at Compaq prior to its completion of the Digital acquisition, he will take on operational responsibilities for 3Com from its headquarters.

"I told Compaq I would not relocate for a year -- my daughter is about to graduate from high school. Commuting to Houston would be a problem. At least with 3Com, a major part of its business is [in the Boston area], and infrastructure-wise they have a good presence," Claflin said in an interview on Wednesday evening.

Although he declined to discuss direction for 3Com, which late last month reported its first good quarter after a string of disappointing quarters, Claflin said his first order of business will be to start talking to employees and customers.

"The keys to running the business best are known by customers and employees," he said. "I'll spend lots of time with customers, employees and partners."

3Com Chairman and CEO Eric Benhamou, who characterised the search for a new COO as surprisingly short, will now focus on strategy at the company.

"Bruce will focus on running the company on a day-to-day basis, with responsibility for all business units, sales, service and marketing as well as information systems and human resources," Benhamou said. "I'll spend more of my time on strategic matters - future directions for markets, technical direction, further discussions with Microsoft and Siemens and communicating with customers on who we are."

Despite Claflin's extensive experience in marketing PCs through indirect channels at Digital and IBM, both he and Benhamou downplayed that part of his resume.

"We were looking for a broad base of experience," Benhamou said. "We like that Bruce was involved in midrange and high-end systems at IBM and with its networking products, where he dealt with very large accounts. Bruce has been exposed to the ... markets we're in."

Still, some observers believe Claflin's experience in marketing PCs through indirect sales channels will be key in helping 3Com to grow, despite a series of tough challenges.

"His knowledge is strongest in channels," said Frank Dzubeck, president of Communication Network Architects, a Washington consulting firm. "From what I hear, the NIC [network interface card] business is starting to deteriorate, the Far East has really affected 3Com and Cisco has done a hell of a job pounding them hard in the stackables [hubs and switches]."