The man in charge of the European assault is Henrik Hedegaard, an IBM veteran who seems hungry to get his claws into the Redmond giant.
‘We hope it’s going to be a cat fight in the mid-range software market,’ he says. ‘And I’m looking forward to that.’
It certainly seems that Hedegaard has the stomach for a fight. He sounds almost gleeful at the prospect of taking on Microsoft in its own backyard and in many ways feels he cannot lose.
‘If I was to say what is the risk, to me the risk is nothing because we don’t do very much business there today,’ he says. ‘But Microsoft has a lot to lose.’
He says even if IBM is not entirely successful in its assault, Microsoft will still suffer. Big Blue’s entrance into the SME market will ‘keep it busy there’ and mean the Redmond giant will be distracted from the enterprise space.
And the CFO will be key to any success Hedegaard achieves. ‘A lot more power sits with the CFO today,’ he says. ‘If you are not able to articulate why your solution addresses their problem and how fast a return they can earn on their investment, you will not get any business.’
In the past his sales tactics would not include the CFO but this has now changed. ‘When we are not successful it is quite often because we haven’t connected with the CFO,’ he says.
‘If you can’t address business issues and show how you solve it and what the return on investment will be, you will not be successful. Those decisions are made by the CFO.’
But the frontline undoubtedly lies in independent software vendor territory.
Hedegaard says he already has 30 such companies signed up and is looking for hundreds more in the new year.
And he is playing on the waves of fear and confusion currently washing over the business software market. He says Microsoft’s recent acquisitions of Great Plains and Navision have upset many of its partners. ‘They are seeing one of their key technology partners turn into one of their key competitors,’ he says.
He sees this as the ideal opportunity to get Microsoft resellers and partners to jump ship and join ranks with IBM. He says that although none are likely to dump Microsoft many will partner both companies. And the ‘extremely aggressive’ pricing of IBM software could seriously undermine Microsoft.
IBM will invest $1bn in the new ‘IBM Express’ brand over the next 12 months. And a huge advertising campaign will begin in earnest in the new year to try and kick Microsoft.Net into touch.
It is a huge task and Hedegaard knows Bill Gates is not to be taken lightly.
Gates has gone on record to say Microsoft has gambled its future on the .Net image.
Whether Hedegaard can make a serious dent in Microsoft’s future business is a difficult call to make, but one can be sure that he will relish the attempt.
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