Culture clash too often leads to blame in corporate buyout game

Culture clash too often leads to blame in corporate buyout game

When one company acquires another, there's the danger the culture clash between the organisations will cause problems. If the problems are bad enough for customers to notice, it can be interesting to see which culture gets the blame.

An example where fingers are pointing in several directions is the trouble readers have been reporting about Cheyenne Software. Cheyenne was certainly not without its problems before it was acquired by Computer Associates a year and a half ago. Several inordinately buggy releases of Arcserve 5.x the previous year had left many customers distrustful. In recent months, however, Gripe Line activity regarding Cheyenne has topped that level.

This time the problem appears to be focused less on a buggy product and more on difficulties dealing with Cheyenne in general and support in particular.

"Cheyenne might answer the phone after an hour or two, but don't bet on it," wrote a US Arcserve user. "In my last five tries, I got through once - after a one hour and 20 minute wait. They did help, but Cheyenne is off my list until I see some real improvement."

Readers on an IDG Electric forum described having other problems getting support from Cheyenne.

"I am not buying into their new tech-support program because I think their tech support in the past has been arrogant and abusive," wrote a forum participant who waited four days for a response to an e-mail query. "Am I desperate enough to call yet? Almost, but not quite. I'm not quite ready to pay 95 bucks for an attitude and a nonresolved problem, which have been the previous results from calling."

CA officials attribute these problems to the culture differences between CA and Cheyenne support operations.

"We attempted to impose our knowledge of how to run enterprise support on the people there," said Marc Sokol, CA senior vice president of Advanced Technology.

Last year CA decided to integrate the Cheyenne group into its central operation, a move Sokol says led to further resignations and morale problems.

"No question, we have had personality, staffing and knowledge issues in the support area," Sokol said.

I might be a little more confident that things are improving if CA's own track record was spotless. But its numerous acquisitions over the years have created legions of disgruntled ex-customers who would say what happened with Cheyenne is all too typical of CA's slash-and-burn treatment of acquired companies.

"It has been the rule for as long as I care to remember," noted one forum participant. "If CA buys a product you use, it's time to bail."

Still, while many blame CA for making things worse, there are some who say they definitely see support on Cheyenne products getting better.

So, which company's culture is to blame? It's hard to say, and let's hope we'll know more once we see whether the support complaints about Cheyenne products get worse or fade away now that it's all up to CA. But I would suspect that when all is said and done we might find this is a case where there's really more than enough blame to go around.

Ed Foster has been writing about technology and consumer issues for nearly 20 years. Send him gripes about computer companies and products at

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