A fourth departure from executive management at Novell has customers and industry analysts questioning whether the company's recent turnaround is built upon a strong enough foundation.
The latest to leave, Vice President of Marketing Patti Dock, had her position "eliminated because of a realignment in Novell's marketing," says Jonathan Cohen, a company spokesman. Only on the job six months, Dock's exit was preceded by those of previous marketing head John Slitz and senior vice president for strategy Chris Stone, both of whom were brought into Novell two years ago by CEO Eric Schmidt and shared credit for the company's better performance. Glen Ricart, chief technology officer at Novell, also left in June.
The departures have not gone unnoticed.
Bob Markham, senior network architect with the American Red Cross in Washington, isn't surprised in light of the way Novell handled recent product introductions. Novell missed opportunities in the Internet before the arrival of Eric Schmidt, Markham says, and the company's failure "to establish Novell Directory Services over the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol" has lowered his confidence in the company's direction.
Novell's marketing woes have also worried Georgetown University.
"We've talked to Novell over the years about having a strategy and plan," says Ron Nicholson, a product manager. "The university is concerned about Novell's future and is presently evaluating a more unified system for e-mail." Georgetown has 12,000 GroupWise users.
Nicholson believes Novell is trying to address its marketing problems and hopes the com-pany continues to talk to IT executives about the business benefits of technology, rather than focus on technical network specialists.
One industry expert agrees.
Dan Kuznetsky, an analyst with International Data Corp. says the people responsible for focusing the company on the business values of products rather than their technological value have left. "Novell has to continue talking about the business rationale, how much money a company could save or make," says Kuznetsky. "It concerns me that Novell will retreat back into speaking to technologists, rather than the IT executives it needs to reach."
Morale at Novell has taken "some temporary hits" over the departures, says Cohen, who also notes that morale in general has stabilised under Schmidt's leadership.