Unified Communications and Collaboration Tools Transforming Enterprises

Date:   Monday , September 01, 2008

Novell is a player in enterprise-class infrastructure software and services, offering flexible solutions that combine open source and commercial technologies based on open standards. Among its award-winning products is Novell GroupWise 7.0, a collaborative software solution that provides workers with email, contacts, calendars, tasks, Instant Messaging, and document management functions. Kent Erickson Global Senior Vice President and General Manager for the Workgroup Solutions business unit talks to The Smart Techie about the trends in the open source space and on how collaboration tools are changing the communication landscape.

As a player in the enterprise software market, what are some of the key trends you find in this space?
There is a great traction for collaboration tools and solutions in the market. Collaboration software vendors are unifying their collaboration platforms and evolving them into Information Workplace platforms, which address not only collaboration but also content, portal, office productivity, and other technologies. For companies, providing their employees with collaboration tools that enable them to work together effectively, no matter where they may be located, is no longer a wish-list or nice-to-have item - itís a requirement. Companies are particularly interested in ensuring that their knowledge workers use collaboration tools to increase organizational innovation, productivity, and efficiency. People joining the workforce expect to work differently. They need new tools and expect to produce work together more as peers than individually. Collaboration tool is a $5.5 billion market. We are witnessing a consistent eight percent growth in the market and the teaming and collaboration application is driving the growth out there. Virtualization management is yet another area which is gaining momentum. The demand for collaborative tools in virtualization management is also increasing. This will help in making data center operations more efficient, including help provisioning dynamic storage. Another major trend is the result of the advances in Web 2.0 technologies that are driving new opportunities for unified communications (UC) and team collaboration.

What are some of the strategies Novell has adopted to grow in the collaboration market?
We are targeting the market both in organic and inorganic ways. We recently acquired SiteScape, a player in open source team collaboration with innovative and open collaboration solutions. SiteScape, the founder of the ICEcore open source collaboration project, brings impressive team workspace and real-time collaboration capabilities to Novell - key components of a broad unified communications and collaboration strategy. We are also looking at partnerships to aggressively approach the market. Recently we entered into a tie-up with Nokia to take our solution one step further by developing a mobile collaboration solution that would not only be competitive, but also give us an edge in the market.

What is the market opportunity in India? The Indian market is evolving and holds tremendous prospects. We already have some large organizations like HPCL and L&T as our customers. HPCL needed to streamline communications to improve operations and customer service, and to enable growth. They wanted a robust, scalable, and secure messaging system that the internal users could leverage without much formal training and chose Novellís Groupwise to connect the companyís 6,500 employees across India.
In the case of L&T Engineering Services, they needed a reliable collaboration infrastructure to help their e-engineering staff communicate consistently and share critical project information with global customers, many working in different time zones. They also chose Novellís Groupwise and the project teams can now maintain and monitor joint task lists and effectively collaborate with each other, critical factors for successful completion of projects.

Educational institutes are also our target customers where there is a huge demand as well as opportunity for collaboration tools. We already have Jawaharlal Nehru University as one of our customers. Collaboration tools can help students and professors work together on projects. There is a need in the space for a lot of collaboration system and Web technology.

How strategic is the India Development Center to Novell?
The India center is the second largest development center of the company. We do many of our core products and solutions development from India, which includes e-directory technology, netware open enterprise server, and system management products. We are also planning to expand the India operations and this will mean some of the work on our virtualization solutions and collaboration tools will be done from India.

What are some of the challenges you face as you move ahead?
The adoption of collaborative tools is definitely becoming faster; but in the non-IT sectors where people are not technology savvy, there is some resistance due to the traditionalist mindset. Competition in terms of hiring competent resources is also a major challenge. In some areas like system level programming there is also a dearth of good resources. We get good resources in Web technologies but when it comes to the lower level programming areas like in the operating system and core networking it has been difficult to get good resources.