Novell Inc. has gone through a couple of management shakeups over the last several months, with Alan Nugent most recently leaving his post as chief technology officer days before the company’s annual Brainshare conference in Salt Lake City.

But

the software firm was staying mum on the subject there, as a spokesperson told the press at a question and answer session that executives would not be fielding any questions on recent executive departures.

Last November, Chris Stone, former vice-chairman, left Novell over what company chairman and CEO Jack Messman reportedly described as “differences in opinion over company strategy.”

In February, Novell announced the appointment of former PeopleSoft marketing executive William Hewitt as senior vice-president and chief marketing officer. Novell’s former CMO, Debra Bergevine, will remain with the company but the company did not indicate what her future role will be.

Pipeline sat down with Hewitt in a one-on-one interview to talk about his new job, his former role at PeopleSoft and where Novell is headed with its marketing strategy.

Pipeline: Given that you’ve been with Novell for a very short period of time, can you talk about the changes Novell is going through with respect to its marketing roles?

Bill Hewitt: Deb (Bergevine) is still with the company.

Oracle is actively involved in consolidation of the industry. One of the things when you do that is you eliminate management. I was a result of that elimination.

Pipeline: What are you able to apply from your experience at Peoplesoft to your job at Novell?

B.H.: I think there are some fundamentals. My career started in sales and moved to marketing and services so I tend to look towards results. I think you can look at activity as a measure but results are important. We look at every marketing activity now and say how does that directly affect sales. We’re going to look at marketing as a very results-oriented organization. We’re going to break it down into three components around content, execution and infrastructure. We’re going to align those pieces with our product groups and our field organizations. We think by doing that we can be successful.

Pipeline: Novell launched an ad campaign called Tech Bytes a couple of years ago that used everyday words synonymous with tech terms. What sort of traction have you seen from those ads?

B.H.: When that ad campaign was developed a number of years ago, it was focused on raising Novell’s brand awareness. The challenge of advertising is always to align your advertising goals with your business goals. At the time the company wasn’t in as good a position as today to execute on sales side. That campaign built a lot of awareness. Our unaided awareness in the market went up from 21 per cent to 36 per cent. Over past two years as we’ve managed our resources through the transformation, we’ve reduced the amount of investment in that particular campaign. We’re now moving our investment and awareness around our two main product strategy areas, around Linux and identity.

Pipeline: With that in mind, what’s your messaging now?

B.H.: The messaging is Novell is open, secure and global. Open is built around Linux in the open source movement. That’s a real disruptive force in the software industry. We went and acquired Suse Linux because we had a number of partners and customers that told us they wanted somebody with Novell’s depth and breadth to be one of the companies that provided the base operating system. Our strategy is not about spreading the adoption of Linux. That’s been done through three distributions. We’re focused on the acceptance of Linux as a mainstream OS in any company.

The second piece is around secure and security in the sense of securing all the assets in your enterprise. Whether they’re physical assets, knowledge assets, digital assets, it should be able to be controlled from a centralized location or centralized management philosophy.

The third piece is as one of the primary Linux distributions today we have over 50,000 customers, over 6,000 employees, 5,000 partners around world in 43 countries providing sales, training, support, services that help people move Linux into a mainstream role.

Pipeline: What do you believe is the best way to get that message out? Is it through conferences like this, print ads, broadcast?

B.H.: I think the best way to get the word out is to let your customers talk for you.

Pipeline: Word of mouth is always the best form of advertising, right?

B.H.: That’s a marketing asset we need to take advantage of and work with our customers. Not just on telling their story but making sure that they’re successful in their implementation. We announced things like the advanced configuration program this week that allows a customer not only to test their ISV application on Linux but the entire stack associated with that. That reduces the risk for the customer.

The partner certification program is one of the best in the industry, where we require partners to certify not just tell us they can run on it. We need to take a trusted position with our customers that these products and services will work in environment. Once we do that, that’s where we build our brand. That’s where our customer stories come from.

Pipeline: Going back to Linux, how has Novell put more marketing behind Linux to compete with other vendors like IBM and HP?

B.H.: All the IHVs are pushing (Linux) to a great degree. Dell is shipping over 35 per cent of its servers with Linux as the primary operating system. HP is also pushing it as well. We do a lot of co-branding and co-marketing with the IHVs. That’s always an interesting set of information for customers. They’re more interested in the next step, which is, how do I make it work in my software environment? Over the last year, we’ve grown our ISV participation in our Partnernet program by a factor of 10. We’ve added over 500 new software partners certified on Suse Linux. This is simply another step in ensuring customers that the risk of implementing these solutions is lower every day.

Pipeline: In Canada, RedHat has market lead over Suse Linux when it comes to Linux distribution. How is Novell working to overcome that?

B.H.: I think we need to do a few things. One you may have noticed in our press releases (is that) our boilerplate has changed. It’s focused on our breadth and depth of support around the world. The second thing I’ll mention is as an example RIM has been in business for 15 years more or less. I have a (Palm) Treo. I had a Blackberry. I find the Treo has more of the functions that I need. (RIM) drove the adoption of the technology. (Palm) is a commercial company that’s building on its acceptance. I think the analogy is the same. I think RedHat got a lot of people to try Linux. I think what we’re going to do is enable people to make it part of their IT infrastructure.

Pipeline: How do you go about that? Novell, as a proprietary software company, has a history of offering its customers support.

B.H.: I think it’s more than support. I think it’s an understanding of how an enterprise runs their business. That’s something Novell’s been dealing with for 20 years. Building value-added components on top of the Linux kernel really does nothing to address the day-to-day management issues IT has to face. I think that’s where Novell’s expertise is, that’s where their experience is and that’s where I think we add the most value.

From a marketing standpoint, our goal is to tell that story from the customer’s viewpoint as frequently as possible. And to make sure that people understand that it’s more than distribution that matters. And that open source is a part of the solution but a mixed source is more reliable solution to address their IT management needs.

Comment: pipeline@itbusiness.ca

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