Non-US branches of multinational IT companies could gain in influence and perceived value with their parent firms following the impact of the September 11 terrorist attacks, says Novell Asia-Pacific president Rhonda O’Donnell.
Australia and New Zealand are showing the US an example in recovering from the psychological and market impact of such a blow, she says. If Novell and other companies can “showcase” that capability, and the value of non-US offices as relatively secure business centres, they may be accorded more recognition by head office. A strategy of distributed “centres of excellence” throughout the world may emerge.
O'Donnell's visit from her base in Melbourne could itself be a sign of a more international outlook in the Pacific. She is the first Asia-Pacific head ever to visit the New Zealand subsidiary.
The US market for Novell had been slowing for a few months before the attack, “but after September 11, it just stopped”, O’Donnell says. Now the company and others like it “just have to drive hard” to recover lost ground.
And it is a rather different Novell that will drive on to the future, she says, because of the acquisition of Cambridge Technology Partners, which specialised in services and consultancy rather than the product sales and service that have been Novell’s mainstay. O'Donnell was previously managing director of Cambridge Technology Partners Australasia.
“We will be working more strongly at helping a customer solve their business problems, even when the solution might not involve technology at all.” Certainly it will involve bringing in rivals’ hardware and software. Novell has been doing that for some time, she points out, such as promoting its directory services with NT to hardened Microsoft users, and inclusion of other platforms will grow further.
The change in business will mean approaching the customer organisation in a way more familiar to Cambridge, communicating with the chief executive rather than the information or technical chief and forging long-lasting business relationships. If it’s a choice between selling $20,000-worth of Novell’s own equipment in a single tender response, O'Donnell says, or taking a broader approach in establishing a relationship that could eventually bring a $2 million deal, Novell’s preference would usually lie with the latter.
Vertical markets will assume a new prominence. “We will be picking up people who know, for example, the utility industry [O’Donnell’s own background before Cambridge] or the banking and finance industry.” At the same time “horizontal” business areas like identity management will remain a focus.