The latest news from Sun Microsystems is that Ingrid van den Hoogen is taking over worldwide corporate communications responsibility from Andy Lark, who is leaving “to pursue other interests”. No decent online bio i can link to though– come on Ingrid get that personal brand going…
Before i say why i think Ingrid will do a good job i should point out RedMonk has a lot of time and respect for Andy, who managed to sustain Sun’s corporate profile at a time when the brickbats were/are certainly flying. When every quarter sees an investment analyst giving some more “helpful advice“. When Sun suddenly turns around and makes nice with Microsoft, enraging many in the open source communities, some of whom are already deeply anti-Sun. When Jonathan and Scott enjoy using water to “put out” oil fires. With pressure from all sides Andy managed to foster and maintain a culture of communications openness, at a time when analyst, developer, investor and public relations were all under diamond creating pressure. good job.
Anyone in charge of managing communications for Sun has to deal with the renegade soundbite tendencies of both the Chairman and CEO (he named his son Maverick, enough said), and the President and COO (calls critics “bizarro numbskulls”). Consider the question, Should companies fire bloggers?
So what about Van den Hoogen? First off i should declare an interest here. I consider Ingrid a friend, even though i probably only see her face to face a couple of times a year. She is smart and very personable. Why is she good for the role? For one thing Ingrid is an insider. At a time of unprecedented change in the industry, she should help to maintain cultural continuity at Sun, as it continues the transition from box shifter to software and services supplier.
Ingrid is also a pretty merciless change agent. Cultural continuity is one thing, but the last thing thing Ingrid would want is to maintain the status quo or rely on dogma. Ingrid is behind Sun’s recent consumer branding initiatives, and the redesign of Java.com. She has developer relations skills. In fact putting her in the job is very interesting from a PR industry perspective – how many chief corporate communications strategists have come up through developer relations ranks? Another insight, pointing to a challenge – more and more software execs are taking management roles at Sun, and some box oriented folks are leaving. That will be another dynamic Ingrid will have a key role in to managing.
RedMonk has recently argued here and here, and in other places, that no software supplier or media company can afford to ignore consumer markets. The differences between enterprise, consumer, content creator and producer are breaking down in front of our eyes. IM? Wifi? Is my Nokia personal or professional? Should i use Amazon message queues?
The companies that finesse B2B and B2C business models most successfully are likely to dominate the next few years of business–which helps explain Microsoft’s continuous and continued investments in loss-making businesses such as Xbox and smartphones.
That is, Sun keeps justifiably saying it is a major open source contributor but folks keep criticizing it for not playing nicely with other open source children. The answer to this problem is going to be in persuasion, and culture, not some set of “facts“. Lets see how Ingrid plays it.