A no-nonsense character, Novell’s manager of partner relationships, Steve Martin gets to the heart of the matter when talking shop. And with Novell making some pivotal moves in the market — gobbling up Linux players Ximian and SuSE — he had some choice tidbits about channel life and the networking giant.
How did you come to join Novell?
Steve Martin (SM) : I’ve been with Novell for 11 years. I started at the time of the acquisition of WordPerfect. I was state manager in South Australia and then moved to Sydney with a broad range of partner roles: in charge of partner programs, distribution relationships and e-business management.
What’s your current mandate?
SM: In my current role, I’m training partners in Asia-Pacific. Over the last three to four months, I’ve had the opportunity to formalise, for the first time, the Asia-Pacific channel strategy. We’re just now starting to role it out.
What does the strategy entail?
SM: It involves several facets. The primary interest is to get a clear understanding of partners, focusing on them and working with them in different market sectors.
In order to do that, we’ve also identified a set of criteria looking at partner revenue, size, key relationships in target markets, pre-existing customers in a given sector, and what the organisation looks like (whether it’s of a development or technical focus). With this information, we are mapping our partners and working with them in focused areas.
What technology areas can partners jump into?
SM: We offer four areas of focus: Nterprise network services (Novell’s traditional business), Nsure (secure identify management), exteNd (Web services and portal solutions), and Linux (a business unit solution focus).
Partners can currently sell into any of those areas. But as partners get new skills, we will work with partners who are specifically focused in each of those categories. It’s not realistic to be an expert in all areas. It’s more likely partners will be adept in one or two areas.
The Linux side is a new piece of the Novell business, and we are talking to new partners, as well. Expect to see these players increase as we coordinate a formal recruitment.
What’s the most difficult aspect of working with the channel?
SM: A big challenge is dealing with vendor and partner expectations. All too often, vendors assume the partner will proactively go after business. The ideal partner from a Novell perspective is one who will own the customer relationship with or without our assistance. We’re looking for self-sufficient partners.
What are your main business objectives in 2004?
SM: My main goal is ensuring consistency within the Asia-Pacific partner programs. The other aspect — and an interesting challenge — is dealing with the 11 or 12 countries in Asia-Pacific that often don’t get a great deal of exposure. I’m getting an understanding of all of that, providing strategies, systems and processes around the partner business into various regions.
The part of the job I enjoy most is seeing successful relationships prosper, and working closely with key partners.
Is the company looking towards any new vertical markets?
SM: There’s a focus on continued growth and penetration in the government space, which is a strong sector for us. We’re also looking forward to the Linux and OEM opportunities. They are presenting us with some strong scenarios.
We’re looking at some ideas and concepts. For one, the retail sector has potential where organisations that have task-specific computing environments — for example, a cash register operating 24 hours a day — there’s a huge opportunity to run Linux. So with the point-of -sale market, which is a market we traditionally haven’t played in, I would expect to see success there in the next few months.
And with the acquisition of Ximian and SuSE we now have a range of strong desktop management Linux tools. Open source is a growing force — and Novell will be at the forefront.
What is Novell doing for partners in the Linux space?
SM: The company is offering two new certifications: Novell Certified Linux Engineer and Certified Linux Salesperson, which will be released in June. It provides sales people with a free half-day training course on how to position and sell Linux solutions to their customers.
The Certified Linux Engineer is the newest certification and validates the partner’s knowledge of Linux, and qualifies the partner to install and administer Novell Nterprise Linux services in either an exclusive Linux environment or a mixed OS environment.
Looking over your career at Novell, what has been a major milestone?
SM: Coming to Sydney and taking on national roles instead of state-based roles was a big move for me. With this, I’m responsible for public messaging for Novell, presenting the corporate message to thousands of people around A/NZ.
A key milestone was putting in place the Asia-Pacific strategy. It was a main thing that was lacking and one we’re sorting out.