CA still enmeshed in makeover effort

CA still enmeshed in makeover effort

We are not the same company we were a year ago, says boss

At CA World 2007 in Las Vegas, CA CEO, John Swainson, declared that the software vendor has made big strides since its last global user conference 18 months ago. But, he said, the effort to reinvigorate CA's sales and reinvent its culture was still a work in progress.

"We are not the same company we were five years ago, or 18 months ago, or even a year ago," Swainson said during his keynote speech. He said that CA had come a long way in a short time, but it wasn't done.

Swainson detailed CA's progress on the six major priorities he outlined at the last CA World conference in November 2005, a year after he was hired to run the then scandal-plagued company. The top priority was improving relationships with CA's users, and Swainson said that the company got its highest score in seven years on its latest survey asking customers whether they would recommend its products to their colleagues. He didn't specify the score, though.

The other priorities included improving CA's own IT systems and instilling a corporate culture that stresses adherence to a new code of ethics. CA adopted the code after the arrests of former CEO, Sanjay Kumar, and other former company officials on charges stemming from a fraudulent accounting scheme. Kumar pleaded guilty last year and faces up to 12 years in prison.

Although the fraud scheme still sits like an elephant in CA's living room, 12 users said at this week's conference that they were focused not on the continuing legal case but on ways to use CA's products to simplify management of complex systems at their companies.

"The securities fraud is important," said an IT manager at a health insurance company in Louisiana. "But even so, it doesn't matter for what I manage." The IT manager, who asked not to be identified, oversees CA's Service Desk tools for his company's help desk staff.

His sentiments were echoed by the other attendees, who said they wanted to learn more about CA's plan to deliver a so-called unified service model (USM) as a core element of its overall management software architecture.

The USM plan was announced at the conference. CA officials said the USM would be maintained in the company's configuration management database and give IT managers a full view of the technology, people, processes and other corporate assets that support individual IT services. The goal, according to CA, is to enable companies to make more informed decisions about allocating IT resources and budgets and managing business risks.

The USM is being tied to 16 packages of tools that CA has created to group its vast portfolio of software products into three broad categories: business service management, IT governance and security management.

"It's a meaningful concept, because CA has all these different products, and they're trying to bring them together,"a network administrator, Matt Crocker,said.

Crocker's team has tested and plans to deploy Spectrum, CA's network fault management software, to monitor 200 devices in one of the TVA's divisions.

He said the integration process had got to be a challenge for CA, which had so many years of making thousands of products and wanted to pull them together in a cohesive way.

IT manager at Region Skane in Malmo, Sweden, Patrik Gertsson, also thinks the USM strategy is a good direction for CA. "IT is a complex world, so if you gather up the many products, it helps," he said. Region Skane, a public agency that provides medical and dental services in the southernmost part of Sweden, had used CA's Service Desk software for more than a year, Gertsson said.

In his keynote address to a crowd of around 6000 users and CA employees, Swainson said that about 70 large customers had adopted the company's configuration management database since it was introduced last year as part of an effort to make the management of IT simpler.

Later, during a press conference, Swainson said that CA had sort of stabilised things inside the company and was now building on the outside in an effort to return to its past revenue-growth levels. He and Michael Christenson, CA's chief operating officer, noted that 800 members of the company's sales force had been refocused to concentrate on its 4000 largest customers, which as a group provided about 80 per cent of CA's revenue.

"The thing that has saved this company through all the tough times ... is that it still had great products and people," Swainson said. "That is our fundamental strength. What we are trying to do now is build on that strength with real financial systems, real strategies and real business processes."

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