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Does Cambridge talk to Provo?

Opinion
Sep 30, 20033 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Provo appears to have fallen off Novell's map

I’ve been hearing lots of complaints from longtime Novell partners, consultants as well as independent software vendors about the company’s execs in Massachusetts losing touch with the folks in the field. Of course, I’ve heard those sentiments a lot over the years as the company’s relationships with outsiders has waxed and waned. Still, the level of discontent and the number of discontented people are higher than I can remember them being before.

What makes this an interesting story, though, is that now I’m beginning to hear from longtime Novell employees in Provo that the executive office is developing clueless tendencies. Absentee execs aren’t a new phenomenon at Novell, after all previous CEO Eric Schmidt never moved to Utah, but stayed in his Bay Area abode during his tenure. Still, a number of top execs (including COO Stewart Nelson) made their nests in the Salt Lake Valley. Now, though, there are few – if any – senior vice presidents living in the 801 area code.

The “regular folks” in Provo are grumbling. People like my buddy Lunchbox Louis (not his real name, of course). He’s worked for Novell for more than 10 years. Comes in each day and punches his time clock, does the job then heads home out beyond the canyon. Over the years he’s watched the WordPerfect people come and go, the Californians from Sun drop by for a visit, and more recently the take over by the Boston Brahmans. He’s also seen the coders’ and programmers’ jobs fall by the wayside as all the development work has been moved to India.

So the execs who control the future have all moved east while the coders who deliver that future have moved even further east (so far east that it’s west!) and Louis is left with some accountants, support and IT.

Louis wouldn’t mind that so much, after all it means not turning a corner and running into a bigwig, but the loss of execs and workers seems to also have been accompanied by a loss of influence. Provo evidently doesn’t matter any more.  The shuttle of new Brigham Young University grads from the campus in Orem to the Novell campus in Provo seems to have stopped running. Only the BYU dropouts, who’ll work cheap doing front-line telephone support have any semblance to the old connection – the one that gave us NetWare and WordPerfect.

Just like every Lunchbox Louis and Louise I’ve ever known, my friend is sure that if he were CEO that he could do a better job. I think he’d have a better shot at the top spot if he were running for governor of California, since Jack Messman has now evidently reneged on his promise to let Chris Stone have the CEO’s chair. Very few kings ever retire, though. You have to throw them out. Since most of the Lunchbox crowd in Provo are stockholders, maybe its time to organize a coup from the inside.