By Jeffrey Bartlett
After an executive search that lasted more than a year, The Open Group announced on Sept. 10 the selection of Joseph De Feo as president and CEO. He comes to his new position from the financial services sector, where he has worked for half a dozen prominent firms. Since 1989 De Feo has managed IT and operations strategy for the U.K.-based Barclays Group.
De Feo will take over from Jim Bell, who has served as interim CEO since the merger of X/Open Co. and the Open Software Foundation (OSF) into The Open Group in February 1996. De Feo will assume his new duties on Nov. 1 and be based at the organization's headquarters in Cambridge, MA. To ease the transition, Bell will remain during that month, then return in December to his long-time employer, Hewlett-Packard, in Cupertino, CA.
"We cast as broad a net as possible, looking at over 300 candidates," says Bell, describing the search process. Yet the result was the hiring of someone familiar.
De Feo has been serving for two-and-a-half years on the Open Group board of directors, as the representative of its end-user membership. With his background in the user community, De Feo is a somewhat surprising choice to observers who expected the new CEO to come from the ranks of IT vendors, who founded and have primarily funded both X/Open and OSF.
Having someone of his profile could stimulate user interest into the merged organization's programs and help to modify the perception that The Open Group is controlled by vendors. "I will bring a customer bias, which is probably no bad thing," De Feo says. "The supply-side owner companies, even up to the CEO level, encouraged me" to take the job.
De Feo says that the chance to influence emerging technologies was a major reason he took this job. "I see an opportunity to impact development of information superhighway technologies and the convergence of computers and telecommunications."
He cited two sets of activities on which he expects to focus during his first six months at the helm of The Open Group. One is a tactical agenda: "to complete the consolidation of X/Open and OSF, and get the company acting in a professional, effective way. I want to crisp up the company."
The second focus will be a strategic agenda. "I will review all the elements of what has been considered the open systems agenda and advance the most important areas." Again he cited Internet-related technologies--in areas such as security and systems management, where The Open Group already has projects under way--and technology convergence.
De Feo also says that the organization will be looking at other alliances with industry groups. One group with which The Open Group and its predecessors have worked closely is UniForum. "I can't think of any two organizations that are potentially more synergistic than The Open Group and the UniForum Association," says Bell, a former UniForum board member. "I anticipate that the relationship will get even closer."
"I can't think of any two organizations that are potentially more synergistic than The Open Group and UniForum."
"It is good to see The Open Group take this step with an aggressive leader taking over as the permanent CEO," says Mike Tilson, UniForum president. "I look forward to working with Joseph De Feo to build on the foundation of collaboration that UniForum and The Open Group have already begun under the interim leadership of Jim Bell."
Present and future CEOs addressed the widespread perception that the days of slow-moving industry consortia, which have lagged behind changes in the use of technology, are past. De Feo says that he intends to make The Open Group behave more like a for-profit company. "We're trying to move away from calling it a consortium. We want individuals inside the company to think of it as a company."
"We've put a lot of work in the last year into streamlining our processes," Bell says. "I'm convinced we can respond as quickly as any other organization. We have to do this to keep up with changes."
De Feo insists that The Open Group still has a vital mission to fulfill. As a user, he says, he has observed the disruption and monetary waste caused by attempting to deploy IT that is not supported by broad-based standards. In his view, the streamlined Open Group will provide standards-related technologies and programs rapidly, thereby serving both its vendor and user constituencies.
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