CA still struggling to overcome legacy of scandal

CA's effort to turn itself around after its accounting scandal is still a work in progress, chief executive John Swainson has admitted.


CA's effort to turn itself around after its accounting scandal is still a work in progress, chief executive John Swainson has admitted.

Speaking at the CA World 2007 event in Las Vegas, Swainson said the software vendor had made big strides in the past 18 months, but was still battling to reinvigorate sales and reinvent its culture.

"We are not the same company we were five years ago, or 18 months ago, or even a year ago," Swainson said. He added that CA has "come a long way in a short time, but we're not 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 noted 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 did not 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 chief executive 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 are 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 this week's conference. CA officials said the USM will 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," said Matt Crocker, a network administrator at the Tennessee Valley Authority. 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.

Crocker added that the integration process has "got to be a challenge for CA, which has so many years of making thousands of products and wants to pull them together in a cohesive way".

Patrik Gertsson, IT manager at Region Skane in Sweden, 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, has been using CA's Service Desk software for more than a year, Gertsson said.

In his keynote address to a crowd of around 6,000 users and CA employees, Swainson said that about 70 large customers have 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, Swainson said that CA has "sort of stabilised things inside the company and is 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 have been refocused to concentrate on its 4,000 largest customers, which as a group provide about 80% of CA's revenue.

"The thing that has saved this company through all the tough 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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