Novell Inc. announced last week that it has named professional services veteran Bob Couture as vice president of Global Consulting. Couture, with 20 years under his belt at IBM and Xerox Corp. and more recently as chief operating officer of Berkeley Enterprise Partners Inc., is charged with developing and executing Novells growth strategy for its combined Cambridge Technology Partners Inc. consulting practice and Novells professional services operation.
Couture spoke from his office in Cambridge, Mass., with eWeek Senior Editor Paula Musich about his plans to take the services operation forward.
eWeek: The service models of Xerox and IBM are quite different. Which one will Novells most look like?
Couture: Novell will look more like the IBM model. The product that Novell has been known for in the market is more analogous to the same kind of approach that IBM took when customers asked for more than just products. Both have similarities, with customers driving the demand and the requirements. To meet their demand, we need to change what we do. When we started in 1991 to build the IBM consulting group—that is a good parallel to what we see [with Novell] today.
eWeek: In starting almost from scratch, how do you compete with well-established players like IBM Global Services and Electronic Data Systems Corp.?
Couture: It is really important to define the niche in which we play and the type of solutions that we go after. IBM paints with a very broad brush. Well always find ourselves at a certain level of competition with them. Also, we expect to continue the relationships we have built up over the years with Novell customers. Novell has a loyal set of customers weve always dealt with. Thats also the case with Cambridge Technology Partners. We will maintain and expand that.
eWeek: Do you view them as your primary competitors?
Couture: Weve been [competing] and will compete against the Big 5 integrators. The marketplace is so fragmented, nobody even has 5 percent of the services marketplace. From one geography to the next, there is a different set of competitors. The only familiar faces we see each time are the very large guys.
eWeek: In pitching solutions based on Novell software, how do your consultants convince clients that what they are proposing is the best solution for the problem that needs to be solved?
Couture: One of the things we have to do is get our sales force to understand the business value proposition. Well deliver something that is best of breed. We expect our teams to have that business value discussion with our clients. Each client will be different. In every case, the solution wont be a drop-in. Well build the competence of our consulting organization to modify, adjust and customize to the right answer for our client. You will see new product sets show up the next time we do [an engagement] where there is a similar problem were trying to solve. We will develop competence in our people to identify and match requirements with delivery capabilities, so we can spend less time in research and architecting and more time in implementing the solution.
eWeek: IBM may be the only example of a software/products-based company thats also succeeded as an independent professional services provider. What lessons can Novell learn from them?
Couture: Im pretty close to that. When we started the services business in 1991, it was important to us to maintain objectivity and make the best recommendation to the client. I had responsibility for the networking consulting practice. IBM had been in the networking business for years. There was a lot of interest to have the service organization help the networking organization. We had to recommend the best products. What we recommended most was probably Novell, and from a hardware standpoint, it was a vendor other than IBM. The right level of management support allowed us to stick with that and grow it to the size it is today. Dont compromise your objectivity is the lesson. That is the foundation of your business.
eWeek: What is the percentage of revenue that professional services contributes to overall Novell revenue, and how do you see that changing?
Couture: Right now, the services component in the combined revenue stream is about 40 percent. Id like to see that reversed over the next four years.
eWeek: How do you grow that services revenue and maintain a relationship with the service provider partners Novell has relied on historically?
Couture: Last month, we announced our Clear Channel [strategy] and described how well deal with our partners. In the first tier, well work [directly] with named accounts. In the second tier, we will sell with [partners], and in the third tier, we will sell through partners. Our sales force and services force will be focused on the named partners/named accounts—they will look like Fortune 500 accounts. In the systems integration world, there has always been competition. It is something we learn to live with. The important thing is to have agreements to compete or cooperate. There is a group of integrators that are happy to partner with us and take advantage of things we can deliver to them, such as the solutions delivery methodologies we develop. At the high end—thats always where a lot of people like to play. Id like to continue to hold out the option to partner with large integrators in those accounts. We already have agreements to do that with some of the big players.
eWeek: Who are some of those players?
Couture: The usual suspects are who we continue to partner with. We are assigning executive liaisons to all the top CSIs [computer systems integrators].