Users Give CA Efforts Mixed Marks

NEW ORLEANS (04/18/2000) - While customers seem impressed by Computer Associates International Inc. recently announced e-business software, a number of them are less enamored with the company's services offerings.

Last week at the CA World user conference in New Orleans, company executives unveiled a wide range of application integration, middleware and neural network products they say would help users prepare for e-business. Meanwhile, the company's service and sales organization is being realigned to better promote CA as a Web business vendor.

Sanjay Kumar, the company's president and chief operating officer, said in his keynote address that the changes represent the biggest makeover at CA in a dozen years.

However, observers say CA's performance on delivering services could undermine the company's overall efforts.

"Certainly their services offering needs beefing up," says Paul Mason, an analyst with IDC, a consultancy in Framingham, Massachusetts. CA's e-business offering is a strong and attractive one, but its services arm is at the "low end" and needs more consultants able to offer cutting-edge services, Mason says.

Even advocates of CA's products see a need for a greater services infrastructure.

"CA is critical to us as an e-business partner," says Allan Horn, vice president of technology at USAGroup, a provider of student loan services in Fishers, Ind., with approximately 30 million borrowers. Horn says CA is working closely with USAGroup to create an extensive set of applications that would let customers do things such as check on the status of loans via the Web. However, while enthused about the products, he feels the CA services organization needs more people, and he says the company has been working on that.

A number of users and analysts say they are impressed with CA's new Jasmine ii software package. The company announced the product's general availability at the show. Jasmine ii acts as an application server, database and software integration tool. The product will help enterprise users do things such as take legacy mainframe business applications - for example, IBM's CICS, a customizable multipurpose transaction monitor - and tie them into e-business applications using XML and Enterprise Java Beans. Tied closely is CA's Neugents neural network technology, which can be used to predict things as varied as network failures or the buying habits of online customers.

CA also claims to be committed to its services offering. Its recent acquisition of Sterling Software brings a suite of business intelligence, portal and application development technology to the company and will also increase the number of service consultants to 5,000, says Jim Holt, a vice president of services marketing at CA - two years ago there were just 100 consultants. CA also is rolling out its "e-Learning" online training program to educate users on how to implement CA technology.

However, there are other issues besides the size of the services organization.

One chief information officer at a West Coast college says he considers CA to be a top-notch e-business vendor, but he has misgivings about the level of service he would receive as a relatively "small fish." His network relies on CA Unicenter TNG to manage the school's OpenVMS server farm. He says he has been frustrated in getting necessary services from CA because his organization is not one of the larger accounts.

The CIO, who spoke on conditions of anonymity, says for him to consider using CA as his e-business vendor, the company would have to respond faster to requests for help.

Another user says he has heard rumblings in the industry that the company's services organization will focus on selling CA products to the exclusion of others. Andrew Wyner, CIO of Myers Industries, a maker of plastics in Akron, Ohio, says his Unix and AS/400 server-based network has been testing Neugents and Jasmine ii and is very pleased with the results.

Wyner says when CA first started building its service organization, the personnel knew a lot about products other than CA's. "But I think they've made a decision that it was not a general consulting group but one that was CA-centric," he claims. If he can't use CA as a one-stop shop that can provide him with information about technology from other companies, he has to go out in the marketplace and start looking around - something he says he doesn't have time for.

However, CA's Holt insists that the company is vendor-neutral, and will do work to assist customers on any platform.

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