Friday, February 01, 2008

Executive poker - is seating more important then cards?

We have a little poker game that I play in, the players consist of other technology folks in the area, and we play about once a month. It is not high stakes poker by any means, but we have a lot of fun and talk about our businesses and the economy. Mostly we just laugh a lot as we each joke about bad hands and cards. One of the things that we learned a long time ago in this poker game is that players and cards are much more important then seating arrangements. If you are a good poker player you know what it takes to win a hand, and how far to push when you don't have the cards. But moving to a new chair has no discernible effect on the outcome of a card game.

NetApp has been playing the same hand now and with the same players for a few years now. And while their technology was new it seemed they could play the hand and with bluffs and some discounting they were able to continue to grow. But it seems that since the Spinnaker purchase in 2002 they have been unable to significantly increase their ability to provide performance gains which are valuable to their customers. So they have been growing on their reputation more than on their abilities to increase performance.

NetApp
acquired its clustered storage technology when it bought start-up Spinnaker in 2002. Back then the company said that it would complete the integration of Spinnaker's clustered file system into its mainstream product line by the end of 2006. The job still is not done, and only very recently the company was talking about completing the integration during 2009. If there are any more delays, customers may worry that NetApp's efforts to converge its clustered and non-clustered products have totally foundered.

As in poker, moving the executives to new seats should have no affect on the cards they are playing.

Georgens' new title is president and chief operating officer. In order for him to take that position, NetApp's former president Tom Mendoza has been moved sideways into the role of vice chairman. The company described that position as a newly created role, in which Mendoza will be 'chief customer advocate'.

Providing long term value to customers is what is required to keep a company growing. Slicing and dicing software feature sets, and dealing from the bottom of the deck in license transferability with customers seems to have made it harder to get customers to come back to the table for another hand at the NetApp poker table.

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