CEO wants Novell to learn from mistakes

Newly appointed Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian spoke with Computerworld Thursday about where he wants to take the company and what needs to change.

Is it fair to say you've been frustrated the past couple of years riding shotgun and not being in the driver's seat so you could steer the company where you think it's needed to go?

It's fair to say that I'm excited about the opportunity to lead the company and to be more aggressive with our execution.

Why do you think it took as long as it did for the board to recognize that Novell needed new leadership and to do something about it?

As you know, that's a complex subject, obviously. What I'm pleased with is that they saw what needed to be done, and they took their action. They needed to take some time to look at their options, and to look at me to see if I was a legitimate player.

In all candor, do you think it took longer than it should have?

I'll pass on that one.

In hindsight, do you think Novell's acquisition of Cambridge Technology Partners was a mistake?

No. I think the execution could have been done better. We didn't get a timely integration done. We confused our go-to-market model with our business model. What I mean by that is we took the business model of consulting and mixed it with the software business model. We translated that into, "OK, that means we sell consulting now." What it really should have been is using consulting to leverage our software products.

Did that acquisition take Novell's eye off the enterprise software ball to the detriment of the company and its users?

I can't quantify the impact of that. I'm quite sure it had an impact from my point of view. What I'm trying to do is make sure we learn from that.

How would you describe morale within Novell over the past few years?

I would say it's probably been mixed. Internally, the team has been requesting the right leadership for a period of time.

Do you think Novell's users will be better served if Novell remains an independent company rather than being acquired?

It's a speculative question. From my point of view, whether we're acquired or not is less relevant; what I'm focused on is making sure that we end up having the most satisfied customers that we can get.

You said this morning that the acceleration you see may include "nonorganic growth." What holes does Novell need to fill through acquisitions?

The opportunity to deliver more open and better-valued management tools that take advantage of what we've enabled inside the [Suse Linux] distribution are areas where we could use some outside help.

As part of this transition, Novell has separated the chairman and CEO roles. What is your perspective on the prudence of that separation of powers from a governance standpoint?

I'm a fan of it. I believe it's a good, healthy practice. It allows the chairman to always have the proper alignment of the board with the shareholders at heart.

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