Careers: Interviews
Chairman and CEO of Novell Speaks...

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, ISP, has an exclusive interview with Jack Messman, Chairman, and CEO of Novell.

Jack graduated from the University of Delaware with a BSc in chemical engineering and received his MBA with Distinction from the Harvard School of Business Administration.

Prior executive roles include: President and Chief Executive Officer of Cambridge Technology Partners where he led its growth as an international e-business services provider since 1999 (Messman joined the Cambridge Board of Directors in 1992); Chairman and CEO of Union Pacific Resources Group Inc. (UPRG), a North American independent oil and gas exploration and production company; Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of U.S. Pollution Control, Inc., Union Pacific's environmental services company; Managing Director of Mason Best Company of Houston, an investment banking firm; Chairman and CEO of Somerset House Corporation, a publishing company owned by Mason Best; Executive Vice President-Chief Financial Officer and a member of the Board of Directors for Warner Amex Cable Communications, Inc.; Executive Vice President and member of the Board of Directors of Safeguard Scientifics, Inc.; President and CEO of Novell, Inc. from 1982-1983; President and CEO of Norcross Inc., a consumer products company; and, prior to 1973, as a partner in a Philadelphia investment banking firm.


Q: With your busy schedule, it’s a real pleasure to have you come in and share your valuable insights with the audience. Thank you for agreeing to this interview.

A: My pleasure. I appreciate the opportunity.

Q: Your list of accomplishments and executive roles are impressive indeed! Which ones standout foremost in your mind and what lessons can you share with our audience?

A: I’ve been doing this for a long time, so I’ve got many alternatives. I’d have to say that, doing what I’m doing now is the biggest challenge, but also the most rewarding. I was present at the creation of Novell, having been involved in the VC that funded the company back in the early 1980s, and having helped launch Novell as the world’s first real networking company. Now, to be back as Novell strives to provide important new solutions in the Web-based world is a great closing of the circle. And very exciting, too, because we’re better positioned now to take advantage of the networked world than we’ve ever been.

Q: From a context of past, present and future, what drives you to do what you do?

A: Business is a challenge, like a puzzle. You know that great feeling when you get that final piece and finish that puzzle? Being a CEO is like working a puzzle. You have complex processes, products, and people that you’re trying to pull together to build something. In technology, you’ve got constantly changing products and a market that is a moving target, so it makes it even harder. But when you get it all together, it’s very satisfying. I’m striving toward that with Novell today.

Q: What are Novell’s current vision, mission and roles, strategies and values and how will they evolve over the next ten years?

A: We’ve had a steady vision since early 2000 - “one Net.” We envision a world where all networks work together to securely connect employees, customers, suppliers and partners. For us, the future of business and technology is a world where there are no information boundaries-between applications, operating systems, and databases; across enterprises and functions and between customers, employees, partners and suppliers. This allows the right people to be connected with the right information at the right time.

Our mission is to help our customers profit from the opportunities this one Net world provides. We’re becoming a very customer-focused company, something we haven’t always been. It used to be that we’d build great technology that did lots of neat technical things, but didn’t gain traction in the market. Now we’re very focused on solving customer problems. We’re developing solutions from the customer backward, not from the lab forward.

I don’t see the vision changing over the next 10 years. That’s why it’s a vision. In fact, we expect to see it validated. People really will have access to their key information anytime, anywhere, on any device, but with the security and privacy then want. That’s our vision, and it’s where the market is headed.

Q: Where is Novell in its journey in leading the world in offering business solutions through technology? What is your current market-share and where do you forecast it to be in 2005 and 2007?

A: We’re making important strides, although, given the poor IT market over the last few years, it has been a difficult journey. Last fall, we took an important step – re-branding and marketing Novell’s solutions around three focus areas – secure identity management, which we call Novell Nsure; web applications development and integration, Novell exteNd; and cross-platform network services, Novell Nterprise. And we tie this all together with business and technical expertise and support, Novell Ngage.

With our acquisition of Cambridge Technology Partners in 2001 and SilverStream Software in 2002, the market was a bit unsure of what Novell was all about. Well, this is it – with exteNd, Nsure, and Nterprise solutions, we help customers build, secure and deploy business process in a Web environment.

It’s tough to talk about market share because Novell is in many markets. Clearly, we’ve lost market share in the network operating system space, primarily to Microsoft, over the last eight years, partly due to our mistakes and partly due to Microsoft’s market power. We have recognized the need to do something to reverse this decline of NetWare. Recently, we announced we’ll be putting our network services on both the NetWare and Linux kernels going forward, which significantly increases the addressable market for Novell.

We’ve expanded market share in other areas. We’re an acknowledged leader in secure identity management, where we have over a billion licenses for our eDirectory technology in the market. We’re growing that business at a rate of over 30% year on year. We have a strong share in managing resources on a network with our ZENworks product line. Our GroupWise collaboration offerings are growing.

People like to equate Novell with NetWare. That’s old thinking. NetWare is, and will remain, a great platform. But Novell has much more than just the platform to offer.

Q: What thoughts can you provide to businesses concerning integration challenges, solutions, and long-term strategies?

A: When you’re bringing together companies, move quickly, move decisively, and don’t forget culture. Getting organizations focused on a common goal – for Novell, it’s the customer – does wonders toward driving diverse corporate cultures together.

Q: Where does Linux factor in Novell’s medium-term strategy?

A: We’re big fans of Linux. As I mentioned, we will be putting the network services found in NetWare on the Linux kernel in our next major NetWare release, which we’d expect around late 2004/early 2005. We already provide a series of services for Linux, including identity management, messaging, and resource management. Novell eDirectory, NetMail, ZENworks for Servers, and other products already run on Linux. We’ve had strong cross-platform credentials for four years now, since we took eDirectory off of NetWare and made it run on Windows and Solaris in 1999 and Linux in 2000. This move to embrace Linux more strongly is a logical progression for us, and greatly increases our potential market.

We’re already hearing from customers who are now reconsidering thoughts of moving away from NetWare based on our Linux commitment. This is great for Novell, and it’ll give customers a new, powerful set of network services for Linux from a trusted name in enterprise computing. It’s a win-win.

Q: What have been the results of Novell’s web-services initiative?

A: I wouldn’t call our web services approach an initiative. That makes it sound temporary. Web services have been overused as a term. Basically, we think of Web services as enabling what’s called a services-oriented architecture. This is all about extracting information from different silos and systems, repurposing it, and making it available to individuals or applications that need it. This requires standards and open platforms. We’ve got all that, thanks to our SilverStream acquisition. What we also add – and what’s been missing from the broader Web services scenario in the market today – is security through our identity management capabilities. Web services, to be effective, have to be delivered to the right person or application, at the right time. Directory technology is key to this. So Novell offers secure Web services, which is an important differentiator. So, we think we’re doing very well on web services.

Q: Please comment on Novell’s strategies in areas like: access, identity management, security, privacy protection, empowering a mobile workforce, building customer relationships, provisioning, network management, and solution bundling?

A: If you look at all these issues, they revolve around identity. Who can see what? On what device? Who has access to what applications? How can devices on a network interact with one another? This is Novell’s sweet spot.

For individuals, identity management is about getting my information on whatever device I want, regardless of where I am. We do that with Novell Nsure solutions. If I’m a corporation, managing my customers means delivering to them what they want, when they want it. Knowing who they are, is step one. Knowing their rights relative to my organization allows me to automate what they get from me. So a supplier will get access to a certain set of information and applications while a partner gets access to a different set.

Similarly, managing resources on a network depends on identifying and putting into place policies for the various elements of the network – users, servers, laptops, PDAs, and so on. Putting these different network identities in a directory is a great way to do this. And that’s what we do with our resource management solutions using ZENworks.

Q: Where do you see Novell today, in two years, and in five years?

A: Novell today provides secure identity management, web application development and integration (secure Web services), and cross-platform services. In two years, we’ll have significantly expanded our ability to deliver all these solutions in a Linux environment. In five years, we expect to be one of the leading technology companies helping customers maximize the value of their information, both in terms of cutting their costs and providing new ways to drive revenue.

Despite the fact that we had the dotcom bust, the Internet will continue to dominate technology for the foreseeable future. It is not uncommon for new technology to experience explosive growth, suffer a correction, and then return to a normal growth pattern.

With the growth of the Internet will come the growth of Web services, where users outside the firewall will need access to corporate systems and information. Companies want to allow the world to come through the open door, but have some control over who that is. Novell has the technologies to facilitate these interactions in a secure way. Companies also want to allow this interaction without having to rip and replace their existing infrastructure. Novell has the technologies to repurpose existing databases and applications to allow this interaction in a low-cost way.

Q: Do you see a future for the Open Source movement and if so, how do you see it evolving in the next three to five years? How will Novell coordinate with this movement?

A: Open source is a great model for developing software, particularly in areas where the underlying technology is mature. Linux is a strong operating system, MySQL a great database, Apache a powerful web server. Having lots of eyeballs looking at software helps to make it stable, cuts down on bugs, and helps drive security. So we expect Open Source will continue to grow. That said, we believe there will continue to be great opportunities for a company like Novell to deliver services that run on, and leverage, open source technologies. It’s not an either-or scenario. We already work closely with a number of open source initiatives and communities, including openLDAP, Apache, and others. We’ve developed a new website, the Novell Forge, to become more systematic in our interaction with the open source community.

Q: Since the early 1990s’ there was a shift amongst companies where IT decisions were being made by the business managers looking at the business case for making IT purchases; and this was a change from the hard core technical types in years past that made these decisions. Novell always was a technology leader. How are you strengthening Novell’s presence and even growing the Novell brand to the business community?

A: Novell’s acquisition of Cambridge in 2001 was very much aimed at this trend on technology decisions becoming business decisions. Thanks to Cambridge’s business expertise, we now are much better at talking to the business folks. We offer solutions, not just products. We bring an understanding of business processes and vertical market needs, not just bits and bytes, to the table. Our rebranding around the solution areas I’ve talked about is designed to change the perception from Novell as a tech company to Novell as a business solutions company.

We’re in the midst of our largest advertising campaign ever. It was designed from the ground up to speak to the CXO level, not to the technology people. Of course, we continue to provide great technology, and the technology guys know it. But they’ve been asking us to “talk to my boss.” So we’re doing that.

Q: How will you be evolving Novell’s various channel strategies in the near term and long term?

A: We took too much of a direct selling approach in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and we paid the price in terms of declining channel sales. We’re fixing that. We’re giving more accounts back to the channel. Many of our accounts said they need more touch points. We couldn’t deliver those the same way the channel can. Our named account/named partner model clearly delineates where we will sell directly, and where our channel partners will have the lead. This has been a long process, but we’re seeing the fruits of it now. It’s a healthier situation for Novell, and ensures our customers get more of what they need: attention.

Q: What do you see as Novell’s core products and services in 2005 and again in 2007?

A: Secure identity management, web application development/integration, and cross-platform services. These are our focus areas, and our products and solutions will fit within these areas. I can’t be specific on things like product names. We certainly will continue our cross-platform approach, building for all the leading operating environments in the market.

These are complex areas. We’ll have made important strides forward by 2005 and 2007, but we won’t be “finished” by any means. We’re focused as a company like we never have been in our history. This means continuity, not going for the flavor of the month.

Q: What in your view are the five dominant challenges facing enterprises in 2005 and again in 2007? What are your solutions to these challenges?

A: To me, the 2005 and 2007 time frame is an artificial distinction for technology. I think the issues are really in more of a 10-year time frame. The big challenges are security, integration, and identity. Getting information from anywhere, from any system, in the company to the people who are supposed to have it, yet making sure privacy is protected, that’s what we’re working toward.

Q: In advising CIOs and CEOs, where is the industry heading in the short, medium and long-term? Can you give specific predictions for businesses about where technology is going in two years, and in five years in the following areas: telephony, security, pervasive computing, networking, the desktop, the web, data storage, Voice over IP, IPv6, and other areas you feel require consideration?

A: Some of these are areas where Novell doesn’t really play, and I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert. But a number do fit within Novell’s area of focus. And these all come together in a way, so I’d have to say convergence is where the industry is heading. Computing is extensive already, but getting information out to any device, anywhere, securely, will make it pervasive. So security, networking, pervasive computing, the Web, data storage: these are all elements of the same challenge. Desktops, if anything, will become less central, as people look to other devices for their information. But they won’t disappear, and managing desktops and the other devices will be a huge challenge. And the time frame, is, again, a 10-year one, in my mind. Given current market uncertainties, I’d be surprised if many people are making predictions in a two-year time frame.

Q: What does corporate America need to do to restore its image?

A: Integrity, honesty, openness in communication. History shows the truth will, in fact, prevail, so why not start with it?

Q: Where do you see IT expense in relation to business plans and business processes? How do you see it factor in a cost-benefit analysis?

A: Even with the meltdown, there’s no question that IT is much more central in business and business planning than it was 10 years ago. That will remain the case. IT improves productivity, and can, if leveraged correctly, open up new business models. Companies that ignore IT in the business planning do so at their own peril.

Q: Considering recent news events, the state of global affairs, and our current economic situation, if you were doing this interview, what five questions would you ask of someone in your position and what would be your answers?

A: 1. When will the economy turn around? I don’t know!

2. Is technology dead? Absolutely not. I know there have been recent articles, including in such esteemed publications as the Harvard Business Review, speculating that technology has reached a plateau, and asking whether businesses really need to improve their technology, or already have what they need to succeed. I disagree. Technology always has been, and will remain, an important competitive differentiator.

3. How does an “old” company like Novell – 20 years old this year – survive in such a tumultuous industry? Through balancing the competing needs of constant innovation with continuity of purpose. Novell has always had the innovation. We’ve occasionally strayed on what our purpose is. Today, we’re very focused, which is why I’m optimistic about the company.

4. What is the toughest part about being a CEO? Managing through a downturn like the one we’ve just been through. This is really tough in software, because it invariably involves difficult decisions about people, since people are the biggest resource – but also the biggest cost – for a software company. It’s never easy having to cut back.

5. What’s the best part about being a CEO? Seeing it all come together. Seeing synergies from acquisitions begin to gain traction. Watching employees get behind a new direction for the company. Successfully merging competing corporate cultures. Going back to the puzzle analogy – it’s watching the big picture emerge as you get more pieces of the puzzle together…. Or course, in business, you almost never get to the point where you have that last piece in place, because more pieces always get added. But getting to the point where you can see the big picture materializing and merging and is great.

Q: With your deep knowledge of the entire IT industry, what other pointers would you like to give the readers?

A:Don’t lose faith in technology, and don’t lose faith in corporate America. Both are foundation components of what makes the U.S. economy so strong. Given the global economic and political tensions over the last couple of years, it’s easy to get down on what’s going on. But the U.S. economy is resilient. We continue to innovate in technology. Keep the faith.

Q: Thank you for taking time out of your demanding schedule to spend time with us sharing your valuable insights. We all watch with interest as you weave a tapestry of vision, innovation, and leadership, shaping Novell into a better future.

A: My pleasure. Thanks for the opportunity.


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