Column: GroupWise Novell's tender spot

In this shallow world we inhabit, appearance may not be everything but it counts for a lot. Somebody had better tell Novell.

In this shallow world we inhabit, appearance may not be everything but it counts for a lot. Somebody had better tell Novell.

Well, actually, plenty of people were willing to tell Novell at its BrainShare Australia 96 conference this month.

Novell officials got positively tetchy when Computerworld Australia's Phil Sim started hassling about the position of Groupwise--third-placed behind Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange, according to Sim.

"GroupWise is not behind anyone!" boomed Novell vice-president and general manager of group operations, Jeff Waxman. (The vice-presidents of Internet/intranet services and corporate marketing provided an indignant supporting chorus.)

"Last year GroupWise did $US85 million in revenue--Exchange did zero. GroupWise now has 6 million users worldwide as compared to 4 million for Lotus Notes. The number of GroupWise users increased 129% last year from 2.5 million to 5.5 million."

But as Sim proceeded to point out, that's not the way the market sees it and Waxman and company conceded that Novell does have a problem with "perception and mind-share".

"Novell has always marketed its message to a technical community," Christine Hughes, vice-president of corporate marketing later told me. "Now we have to look at the higher level people in companies because buying decisions have moved to them.

"We have to speak in terms of business advantage and make people see that their network is an asset, not just an architecture. We will push Novell as the company to help people realise that asset."

With this in mind Novell recently sponsored an IDC study on how to maximise the ROI (return on investment) in network computing.

"Business managers and IT executives want to know what kind of ROI they will get from their network. We're going to weave all those figures into a business argument for them," says Hughes.

"So what happened with GroupWise?" I asked. "Exchange was launched with so much fanfare and then it was usually compared to Lotus Notes. We hardly ever heard anything about GroupWise."

"At that time GroupWise was mired in Wordperfect," says Hughes. "Now we can clearly showcase GroupWise. When GroupWise 5 comes out later this year, we will definitely be making a big deal."

Part of the mind-share problem is that people still think of Novell as NetWare, she says.

"In the past we didn't build the Novell brand, we built the NetWare brand. Now we're saying we're a solutions company and we have these products--NetWare, GroupWise, ManageWise and our Internet/intranet solution. We no longer want to be perceived as NetWare only."

"Is this because NetWare is losing market-share to Windows NT," I asked.

"Again it's all about perception," says Hughes. "It looks that way but I doubt it. Microsoft counts every upgrade as a new licence--Novell doesn't. Microsoft counts all sales of NT Workstation as server sales. NetWare is not trailing off--last year we sold 817,000 network operating systems and 75% were new business."

However, the marketing message doesn't seem to have trickled through to all Novell staff yet. I didn't interview Stewart Nelson, vice-president and general manager of the GroupWise division, but journalists who did likened it to getting blood out of a stone. Nelson was less than forthcoming about his product, usually giving one-word answers. Does he want people to buy it or not?

And recently when I asked Novell's New Zealand manager, Murray Colclough, about the number of GroupWise users in New Zealand he threw back his head and laughed "Who knows?" he guffawed.

(Malcolm is Computerworld's networking editor. Email her at andrea_malcolm@idg.com.)

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