COO Clarke maps out CA's development priorities

Computer Associates International's (CA) sales have been flat for the past few years, a trend the company hopes to change with a renewed commitment to its channel business and a handful of targeted investments in technology development, Chief Operating Officer Jeff Clarke said Tuesday in a meeting with analysts at CA World.

Clarke identified five areas in which CA intends to focus its investment funds. First, in its flagship Unicenter line of management software, CA will expend development around service, desktop and asset management technologies. It will also invest heavily in security management research and development, focusing particularly on identity, access, security information and threat management.

To improve its internal financial controls, CA plans to buy a standard ERP (enterprise resource planning) system, replacing its homegrown software. SAP, PeopleSoft and Oracle are the most likely suppliers for that new system, Clarke said.

CA's other investments will be aimed at expanding its customer base. The company plans to add 150 new employees and improve its infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region. It will also add 200 employees to help build its channel business, an initiative interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kenneth Cron called CA's number-one priority this year.

Less than 10 percent of CA's business currently comes through the channel, Clarke said.

"CA has a very concentrated set of customers and is under-represented internationally," he said. "That's due to an over-reliance on direct sales."

CA introduced at its show a new partner program intended to give channel resellers access to more products and more flexible licensing terms, along with additional marketing and training support.

CA until recently offered only backup, anti-virus and modeling tool software through the channel, according to Gary Quinn, CA's newly appointed head of partner relations. Last year it began selling some BrightStor storage and eTrust security products through resellers, and this year it plans to expand the partner portfolio to Unicenter software.

CA once sold Unicenter through partners, but that effort was fraught with certification problems and conflicts between CA's direct and indirect sales forces. Quinn said he's confident the company has learned from past missteps: "We've become more channel-savvy."

Eight-year CA customer Randy Lengyel, senior vice president of management information systems at Wisconsin Physicians Service Insurance, said CA's development priorities line up well with his organization's needs.

"We're very heavily invested in Unicenter for desktop management, and security is going to be a focus for a lot of companies, with so many people trying to break in," he said. "One reason we chose CA as a partner is that we're very impressed with the direction of their R&D (research and development)."

In response to an analyst question about whether CA considered waiting till a permanent CEO is in place before tackling new initiatives like its channel overhaul, Clarke said the company's management and directors were unanimous in agreeing to move forward now.

"Steady is not acceptable," he said. "We need to grow again."

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