Management gamble

CA’s journey along its road to corporate recovery took it to Las Vegas once again for its regular CA World conference. ACN heads to the show, to see if the vendor’s strategy is paying off.
Management gamble
By Eliot Beer
Sat 02 Jun 2007 12:03 AM

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 position in the 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 the 2007 CA World - again in Las Vegas - the vendor 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 IT management issues from applications to network infrastructure.

"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 range of products and services. But whether or not CA's products can deliver on reducing complexity, the vendor's commitment to simplifying its offerings seems to have paid dividends.

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 - and not taking anything for granted.

As with other technology vendors, CA sees enormous potential in emerging markets such as the Middle East, and the company is placing a renewed emphasis on these territories. Sabby Gill, CA's new vice president and general manager of EMEA Eastern - which comprises the Middle East, Africa and Russia - says he and his team are currently planning which offerings to focus on.

"We've started our integrated planning in Saudi Arabia, and the next region is the Gulf," says Gill. "We're quite fortunate - the market is one of our most mature. So where in some areas you'd find we'd only concentrate on four or five solution areas, in the Gulf we'll concentrate on the full seven that we can offer."

Gill also sees huge growth potential in the region, and says even just by holding market share, expansion will be rapid.

"This region has a CAGR of 13.4% - it's only going to be another six or seven years before the market doubles in size from US$737 million today - so if we do nothing but still continue to fulfil exactly the same level of 10% to 15%, you're talking about doubling the size of the business in just a few years," explains Gill. "These are statistics, we'll never know where we will actually end up in reality - but considering our position, we're hopeful."

He sees the Middle East as an increasingly sophisticated market, with one of the key trends being the move to make IT departments a separate business unit - something that meshes with CA's current rhetoric.

"We're seeing the move to IT departments as profit centres more and more in our market," says Gill. "Spinning off IT and making it an external organisation where you're only paying for the delivery of services is effectively outsourcing. And because it's more of a service delivery, this fits in very well with CA's vision of govern, secure, manage."

Gill seems confident that his team can take advantage of CA's renewed vigour, and combine it with the potential of the emerging world to deliver impressive results.

Potential CA customers should have some hard questions for the vendor, but there is no doubting its drive.

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