Hovsepian: bringing about change at a troubled company

Ron Hovsepian, Novell's newly appointed CEO, tells Don Tennant what went wrong at the software vendor in recent years and what needs to change for the better

Is it fair to say that you’ve been frustrated the past couple of years riding shotgun, and not being in the driver’s seat?

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 recognise that Novell needed new leadership?

That’s a complex subject, obviously. What I’m pleased with is that they saw what needed to be done and they took 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.

Do you think it took longer than it should have?

I’ll pass on that one.

In hindsight, do you think that Novell’s acquisition of Cambridge Technology Partners five years ago was a mistake?

No. I think the execution could have been done better. We didn’t get a timely integration done. We also 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, “Okay, that means we sell consulting now.” What it really should have been [about] is using consulting to leverage our software products.

Did the acquisition take Novell’s eye off of the enterprise software ball?

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 the 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.

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.

Do you think your users will be better served if Novell remains an independent company instead of being acquired itself?

It’s a speculative question. From my point of view, whether [the company] is 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.

Novell has separated the chairman and CEO roles. What’s your perspective on the prudence of that separation of powers, from a corporate 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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