Users: Novell must reach Microsoft-minded executives

Some users of Novell's software said this week that they're ready to implement the struggling vendor's new Internet-based products. But first they have to get their bosses to buy into the idea, and they said Novell needs to do more to help them with that challenge.

While several attendees at Novell's BrainShare 2001 user conference said the company offers high-quality directory, security and messaging software, they added that rival Microsoft often has the advantage at the CIO level. Novell has to expand its sales and marketing programs and aim them more effectively at executives who can make major purchasing decisions, these users said.

For example, Daniel Long, technical services manager at Naples Community Hospital in Naples, Florida, said Novell's directory and security technology would be ideal for use in making patient records secure and accessible via various systems in compliance with the federally mandated Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

But, Long said, he fears that he won't be able to get upper management at the hospital to sign off on such an implementation. The hospital's senior executives have a Microsoft-centric view, Long said. Novell has "excellent products [that] are cross-platform and augment and cement the [Windows] NT platform, but I can't seem to get the message across," he said.

Many executives at the boardroom level have a natural bias toward the PC and therefore lean in the direction of Microsoft for purchases, to the detriment of vendors such as Novell, said Geoff Uglow, IT director at London-based tea maker R. Twining & Co.

Uglow said the Novell Directory Services (NDS) directory software sold by Novell is superior to Microsoft's Active Directory. "Microsoft is good, but not as good in these areas," he said. But, Uglow added, Novell needs to deliver a technology road map for its products that can help users like him convince upper managers to go with its products.

"I'd like to see them market to the masses," said Tom Nevai, an IT specialist for the state government in Michigan, which uses Novell's GroupWise software for most of its e-mail activities. Nevai said Novell has been marketing more aggressively during the past 12 months, but added that he'd like to see even more momentum behind those efforts.

The Michigan government completed a consolidation of multiple GroupWise installations last November, and Nevai said Novell's on-site technical support was very helpful -- especially in comparison to Microsoft's. But some of the agencies in Michigan now use Microsoft's Exchange e-mail software, he said.

Darin Richins, vice president of corporate marketing at Novell, agreed that the company needs to do more on the sales and marketing front. Novell has been trying to better establish its corporate image through television ads and other means, and it plans to branch out to focus on specific products. "We need to make as much noise as possible," Richins said.

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