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Wed 23 May 2007 04:00 AM

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CA's management gamble

CA’s journey along its road to corporate recovery took it to Las Vegas once again last month, for its regular CA World conference. Eliot Beer reports from the show, to see if the vendor’s strategy is paying out.

|~|swainson200.gif|~|CA’s president and CEO John Swainson|~|Of the many tech companies currently attempting to move beyond the financial scandals engulfing much of corporate America, CA is one of the most high-profile. Having lost most of its senior management team to a major fraud investigation, the former Computer Associates embarked on a program to reinvigorate its product offerings, and move beyond its corporate problems.

In November 2005, at its CA World event in Las Vegas, the vendor relaunched its line of management systems under the banner of Enterprise IT Management (EITM) – something CA claimed would be a more focused approach to the market. At the height of its corporate scandal, CA’s restatement of its positioning in the software market was an attempt to draw a line under the past, and give the company momentum to drive it forward.

A year and a half later, at last month’s CA World – again in Las Vegas – CA was still working to separate its boardroom woes from its technology offerings. But on this occasion the vendor had something to show for its efforts, rather than just promises of a new direction.

“CA has changed dramatically; we are not the same company we were five years ago, or 18 months ago, or even one year ago,” said CA’s president and CEO John Swainson in his keynote speech at the event.

Swainson’s message revolved around reducing complexity within an IT infrastructure – something no large enterprise is likely to reject. CA’s strategy has been to develop and acquire systems to tackle virtually every type of IT management issue.

“In every large company there are multiple PC, server and storage suppliers; networking products; application, management and security providers, and so on. The problem is further aggravated by myriad offerings to manage that complex environment, often tied to specific brands of hardware, software or applications,” said Swainson.

“So the burning question becomes: what is the best way to manage a complex system to achieve maximum efficiency, effectiveness and security?”

Unsurprisingly, Swainson’s answer was the use of CA’s updated range of products and services. But whether or not CA’s products can deliver on the promise of reducing complexity, the vendor’s commitment to simplifying its own offerings seems to have paid dividends to the company.

Across the conference, the messages coming from CA’s representatives – and its customers which were wheeled out as appropriate – remained focused on two themes: unifying and simplifying the business, and governing, managing and securing the IT infrastructure.

CA has worked hard to draw its offerings together under these mantras, and distance itself from the activities around its former executives. But the continuing news around the trials of its past leaders still provides an undercurrent to CA’s activities.

Fortunately for its customers, this undercurrent seems to have manifested itself in a degree of obsession with establishing its propriety – and perfecting its offerings. The company is also spinning its corporate misfortune to demonstrate that it now has an unprecedented insight into the requirements of compliance and regulatory issues.

Eighteen months is not a long time for a company to reinvent itself, and CA is still very much in the middle of its journey. But the company appears to be taking the process seriously, working at it with dedication – and not taking anything along the way for granted.

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