Alcatel-Lucent Woos its Customers on Valentine’s Day

The recently formed Franco-American communications powerhouse launched its 2007 charm offensive at the Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise Forum in Paris on February 14th. It was a noticeably different style of event from the previous Gallic love-fests, with a distinctly US high-tech look and feel. Indeed, only one speaker, Tom Burns, President of the Enterprise Solutions division, spoke at both the 2006 and 2007 Forums – and he’s an American!

Pat Russo, Alcatel-Lucent’s CEO, kicked off the event with a typically upbeat presentation. Whilst acknowledging the poor Q4 results announced last week (Ed: Total revenues dropped over $1 billion year over year, a $500 million profit in Q4 2006 became a $800 million loss this quarter, and 12,500 out of the 82,000 employees may now lose their jobs) Russo was at pains to point out that the Enterprise Business Group grew by 15% world-wide.

She said that the losses and restructuring were to be expected when two companies the size of Alcatel and Lucent came together, and that the worst would soon be over. At a recent financial analysts’ call Ms. Russo predicted that overall sales would rise by 5% to almost $25 billion for the full year.

Hubert de Pesquidoux, the newly appointed President of the Enterprise Business Group and the only French national to speak at the keynote presentation, was even more positive about his business. “We grew 15% year over year, whilst the total Enterprise communications market only grew by 6 to 7%. That means we took market share.” He was particularly pleased with the 22% growth in the key North American market, citing the company’s recent $300 million multi-year Enterprise win at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre. His enthusiasm is perhaps natural, given that he headed up Alcatel’s US and Canadian operation until appointed to his new global role at the end of last year.

But Pesquidoux acknowledged that there is still lots to do. “Our customers tell us we have great products, but that our go to market strategy has been wrong. We have different ways of doing things in different markets, which confuses our customers and channel partners. We are going to put that right”, he said.

When questioned further about the plans for the channel, he went on to say “we have put in place a global team with a clear mandate to straighten out channel training and accreditation, channel programmes and the mapping of channels to opportunities”. He later said that whilst he wanted this to happen soon rather than later, it could take 12 to 18 months.

A start has already been made in the UK with the recently change of distribution partners reported last month. Alcatel-Lucent’s UK channel community can expect even more changes to take place in the future.

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