Computer Associates - has the worm turned?
Can CA reinvent itself?
Computer Associates (CA) have had a pretty miserable time over the past few years. I guess they felt like the underpaid and overworked airport staff at New York's JFK airport as I came through on a flying visit to catch up on their latest news.
Having lost a chief executive, chief salesperson, chief financial officer, and legal counsel in what has been a well documented contract backdating scandal the $4bn company has had to endure a tough couple of years.
Certainly, the reputation that CA had of being ruthless, out to screw every last penny from oppressive software supply contracts still hangs over to this day in many quarters. Certainly anyone that has been in the industry for a few years will be familiar with customer war stories and many an ex-employee has spilt the beans on how bad the setup was.
I must admit to being a CA virgin. Yes, I had followed the stories and was most amused when someone very close to me had their company acquired by CA a number of years ago and worked there for a total of three weeks before realising how awful the place was.
That aside, I thought I would follow this opportunity up as I was curious as to how a company could reinvent itself and have the balls to invite a bunch of analysts to a briefing-cum-social do to hear about the reinvention that has been going on, no holds barred.
The world according to CA is now EITM - Enterprise IT Management.
"Hmmm", I thought. This stinks of gorgonzola and sounded so 90s I was thrown into a brief reminiscence for the days of 486 processors and Windows for Workgroups.
But, hang on, CA EITM started to sound interesting.
Now CA is one of those companies that have developed or acquired a large number of products across a range of technologies. Some of these have been cash cows, others have been old dogs that were probably still on the price list as they generated some annuity income.
EITM is the strategy, announced at CA World in November 2005, designed to pull all of these disparate technologies together under a single umbrella, using web services, SOA (Services Oriented Architecture) and XML interfaces to glue them.
No problem here, I thought. The architecture is spot on and credit to the CA team for getting to grips with web services and SOA. Still, they would have been monumentally dumb for doing anything else.
IT has gone through a huge change in the past 10 or so years. Now we are seeing IT transition from being a cost heavy support role into something that may actually be useful for a business. Some, including CA, would even suggest that IT could be a "business driver". Whether that is true is open to debate and very much depends on the organisation you are talking about. I would suggest that most businesses see IT as a necessary evil and until suppliers provide robust and manageable products that work as reliably as they should many business people will remain sceptical.
And this neatly reintroduces what CA believe EITM is all about - bringing together horribly isolated solution silos along the lines of govern, manage and secure.
This strategy strongly supports the old military adage of attack being the best form of defence. Instead of sitting back and letting HP and IBM take their customer base CA have come out fighting and appear to be reinvigorated.
I am really up for giving CA a break and seeing if they can deliver EITM as the industry needs to show that it has finally grown up.
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