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Sun 16 Nov 2008 04:00 AM

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CA overhauls regional strategy for services

A lot has happened at the Middle East division of infrastructure management software firm CA this year. Now the company has revealed plans to fortify channel relations in the form of a modified services strategy.

A lot has happened at the Middle East division of infrastructure management software firm CA this year. Now the company has revealed plans to fortify channel relations in the form of a modified services strategy.

"I think it was very much a model that equated to the US market and parts of EMEA, and it just didn't work for us in the Middle East," admitted CA's regional services director Gerrardt McGowan-Le Roux, contemplating a channel strategy that, until recently, was built on a philosophy of the more partners the merrier.

"We found that the partners were in competition with each other and so it was more destructive than anything else," he conceded.

To say CA's Middle East operation has radically overhauled its go-to-market policy during the past six months would be an understatement. Forced at one stage to contend rumours that its days in the region were numbered, the firm has since detailed a bold new strategy based on 23 VARs, rather than the 70 it worked with before.

These 23 resellers - and Le Roux confesses there is a chance this number will reduce further - each serve as CA ‘champions' for specific solutions and geographies as part of a strategy to prevent over-competition. With a portfolio now comprising everything from project management software to access management solutions, CA wants to ensure VARs are specialised in at least one core area.

Bizarrely, however, CA refuses to name its revised list of Middle East partners. "A circumstance could be foreseen where our competitors start targeting the partners we are working with on specific solutions," stated the company in defence.

The shift in sales strategy has also manifested itself in CA's approach to delivering services. Le Roux, a former Cognos and IBM chief who was hired three months ago to oversee CA's regional services strategy, is confident the new model CA has created will avert some of the complaints that partners have levelled at it in the past.At the heart of this change is XECA, a 50-50 joint venture services organisation that CA formed with Saudi-based SAP specialist Xenel several years ago. In its original guise, XECA was considered a competitor by resellers as it sold services directly to the customer.

That is no longer the case, according to Le Roux. "XECA under no circumstances will approach an end-user directly - we will only do it with a partner and everything will be on partner paper," he declared.

"We have really transformed our way of thinking and so CA in the Middle East is not in conflict or direct competition with partners. That makes it a lot more comfortable for the partner to invest in its services organisation because it knows that we are not going to be stealing from it or taking implementation projects."

Certain lines in the sand have still been drawn, however. Although resellers will manage basic project implementation, XECA will retain the architecture aspect which accounts for around 30% of the implementation.

Le Roux explains how it works: "What XECA will do now is the architecture consultancy and then the 70% that is remaining will be handed over to the partner for basic implementation. That means the partner is in a situation where it isn't in competition with XECA so it is quite happy to try and not do all of it. Previously, XECA had to fight for the business. But now, with every single opportunity that presents itself, XECA always knows it is going to get the 30% architecture and the partner knows it is going to get 70%."

While it may seem unfair that CA is stopping partners from getting their hands on the architecture revenue, Le Roux claims it is a service that VARs are typically apathetic about anyway.

"The resource required for an architect is very expensive. They are difficult people to find and difficult people to retain so it is a headache that the partners are quite happy to give to XECA," he said.

"And XECA is quite happy to take on that responsibility because firstly we retain our IP and then we can give quality assurance to the customer. It has been a good trade off."

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