CA sets up team in bid to boost services business

Looking to shore up a weak spot in its operations, Computer Associates International Inc. is quietly assembling a group of salespeople whose task will be to promote the company's IT services offerings.

CA this week said it began training the 80-person unit, dubbed the Service Development Specialists (SDS) group, in April and plans to officially launch the outfit this fall. Officials at Islandia, N.Y.-based CA said they hope the dedicated sales staff will help put a stop to an ongoing decline in the company's IT services revenue.

The services business has been dipping for the past several quarters, and CA reported earlier this week that services revenue dropped to US$65 million in its first quarter ended June 30, down from $83 million in the same period a year ago.

Sanjay Kumar, CA's president and CEO, said during a conference call about the first-quarter results that the company needs a boost in the IT services market. "We just absolutely have to do better in that business," he said. "We'll make some changes there."

The new sales team is Exhibit A, according to CA. Until now, the company hasn't had a sales force dedicated to services. Bob Dinkel, CA's senior vice president for services in North America, said the SDS personnel are being trained strictly to drum up services-related business, although he added that they will work with CA's software sales force on deals.

Despite the addition of the new sales unit, CA isn't changing its strategy of targeting the IT services business at customers that use its software. In a statement, Kumar said he remains convinced that focusing on service offerings tied to CA's technology "is the best use of our resources."

CA has been divesting itself of IT services operations that don't revolve around its software, Dinkel said. Two years ago, for example, the company sold off the federal government services unit that it had acquired when it bought Dallas-based Sterling Software Inc.

CA is now trying to position itself to be a "trusted adviser" to work with its software users and help them get a return on the investments they have made, Dinkel said.

The company announced that its services unit is helping the Indiana Supreme Court in Indianapolis create a system to track court cases. Kurt Snyder, the court's director and counsel of trial court technology, said he was sold by CA's broad product line, coupled with the ability of its services organization to develop a customized court management system using the software.

The system that CA is putting together for the court will include its CleverPath Web portal software and Unicenter enterprise management applications, Snyder said. The project should be completed in 12 to 18 months, he said.

Stacy Cowley of the IDG News Service contributed to this report.

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