Time of reckoning

If you're a customer of Computer Associates International Inc., whether by choice or through acquisition, and you've never paid much attention to the internal goings-on and financial statements released by the company there's no better time to start than now.

As you probably know, CA founder and Chairman Charles Wang is trying to fend off a takeover attempt by Texas financier Sam Wyly and a group of like-minded investors who want to cut up the company and kick Wang out.

Perhaps Wyly, who not so coincidently sold Sterling Software to CA in March 2000 for US$3.9 billion, is motivated by seller's remorse. If so, he may find sympathy among those CA customers who have had their own bouts with buyer's remorse. Indeed, in a Wall Street Journal article, Wyly counts among his reasons for launching the takeover bid that the vendor is "alienating customers." One of his nominees to CA's board is quoted as saying that customer service at CA is "a critical problem." The firm's checkered history with customer service has been covered extensively in the press and was at one point a lightning rod for many angry customers.

Users may feel different today. In response to Wyly, CA President Sanjay Kumar claims that customers don't want CA broken into multiple units. He says you want a unified solution. I don't know how well CA managed to knit together its tangled web of acquisitions but you certainly do.

Since both camps claim to have your best interests at heart, now is the time for CA users to band together and start lobbying both camps for changes. Press your advantage with Wang and Kumar to get the concessions, support and product assurances you need in order to go about plotting your future IT strategies.

Make public what you want CA to do. Tell the shareholders and the board what real customers think. The shareholder meeting to elect the next board is scheduled for Aug. 29. And while you're at it, let your peers know what you think on our online forums, where we've launched a discussion thread to address this issue (www.computerworld.com/caforum).

(Patricia Keefe is Computerworld's US's editorial director. You can reach her at patricia_keefe@computerworld.com.)

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