Novell exec plots company's return

This month, Novell will begin seeking new customers again for its file, networking, print management and collaboration tools

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Overall, the company will focus on the technology areas it knows best and for which it is best known -- file, networking and print management, collaboration, and endpoint management. "We want to continue to stay within those categories, but we want to modernize those technologies," Flynn said.

The company faces formable competitors, however. Novell's GroupWise, for instance, must compete against IBM Connections, Jive Software's offerings, and Microsoft's Lync, Exchange, Outlook and Yammer. "There are heavy hitters in this space, which are putting a lot of money into strong customer acquisition and customer loyalty efforts," Park said. "Novell has some interesting pieces, but they must play catch up."

Since being purchased by Attachmate, the company has issued 86 product release updates. It unveiled some new and updated technologies at its annual BrainShare users conference in February. There, the company demonstrated a significantly upgraded version of File Reporter, which is software that reports on file usage and security. The newly released version 2 integrates access rights into the reports, drawing user information from Microsoft Active Directory and Novell's own eDirectory.

"We're really expanding the capabilities of what we can report on with this product. Not only can we report on what is being stored and accessed, and how old the files are, but also who has access rights to these particular files," said Buck Gashler, a Novell marketing manager.

Are these efforts enough? Some say the company is still not doing enough in emerging spaces such as mobile and the cloud.

"Overall, I think Novell is on the right track but if it is to survive and thrive, the company needs to successfully transform itself to meet new these challenges," King concluded.

Flynn admits that the company doesn't have the resources yet to pursue all the major trends in the marketplace. The company has been busily expanding its products, such as iPrint, for mobile and BYOD ("bring your own device") usage. But Novell still needs to catch up with the IT industry's shift to cloud computing.

"We are developing what our cloud strategy looks like. I'd like to be further along in my cloud capabilities than we are today, but there was some things I needed to do first. I could innovate without them, but I realize that ultimately we need to get there," Flynn admitted.

Prior to taking the helm at Novell, Flynn oversaw Attachmate, a terminal emulation software business unit of The Attachmate Group. He joined Attachmate in 1998 after spending 17 years at IBM in various management roles.

But because Flynn is a long time Attachmate executive, Park is skeptical that Flynn is a suitable choice for leading Novell back to prominence. "There seems to be a mismatch between a guy who has focused on things like terminal emulation but who now has assets based on cloud, mobile, social. These are all very trendy and require a very modern mindset."

"Bob Flynn might be the right guy, but to effectively sell Novell he must use a very different mindset than what he has traditionally done with Attachmate," Park said.

Despite the challenges, Flynn remains confident in his mission to put the company back on top.

"My task is to rebuild the brand, bring it back up to the level it was before," Flynn said. "That's the direction we're going in, and we'll be pretty relentless about it until we feel we get there."

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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