Serious Questions Still Abound For CA

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More questions are facing Computer Associates today than a contestant on "Jeopardy." Just a smattering of issues surrounding the embattled software maker include who will lead the company as chief executive, will it survive as an independent company, does it finally have the right sales strategy to leverage the channel, and what is different about the company's partner pitch this time? Will its future CEO be a technologist? A business strategist? Or could CA possibly find someone who possesses the rare combination of technical expertise and business acumen? Its former chairman and CEO, Sanjay Kumar, combined the brawn of a power hitter with the finesse to lay down a perfect bunt. And just how will CA fare in diving more deeply into the channel? Will the government accept CA's $10 million offer to settle accounting irregularities? All right, enough with the questions--let's search for some answers while admitting it is amazing the company is still standing.

For the moment, the pressure to replace Kumar does not seem to be mounting because of some deft maneuvers by interim CEO Kenneth Cron, a former top executive from CMP, the publisher of VARBusiness. Amid the onslaught, Cron recently stood before several thousand partners, users and employees at CA World to deliver a sincere and convincing speech about the company's future, along with his vision for increased partner reliance. But while Cron was able to assure many that CA will survive, he also contended he did not want to stay on as CEO permanently. This is no Steve Jobs redux, he said. He'll stay in the hot seat long enough to find a suitable leader and then assume his role on the board, having done chairman Lewis Ranieri the favor of stepping up when CA needed him most.

Having worked with Cron for many years, I can tell you he is an individual blessed with perfect timing. While some of CA's top managers quietly want Cron to stay on full time, his call (at least as of press time) is on the mark: CA needs an individual capable of transforming its culture, business practices and sales strategy. CA will not lack for candidates, though finding a leader who is a technical visionary with a deep understanding of what the partner community can deliver for CA will take some time. Cron is right by positioning himself as the right man for right now, but not the right man for the long term.

At the company's CA World confab held in Las Vegas last month, sales and channel leaders Gary Quinn and George Kafkarkou also told partners that CA's future depends on selling more products through VARs, integrators and ISVs. Upon hearing this, I was overwhelmed by a sense of dj vu, given that their predecessors have uttered the same sentiment year after year. What is really different this time, I asked Quinn and Kafkarkou in front of a semi-filled room. They told me that this time, they both believe they have the backing of the company's management team. Now, I have heard Kumar say he was committed to the channel, so was this an instance of blaming the outgoing CEO? No, the 2Gs (Gary and George, that is) say the commitment never really materialized before. This time, things will be different, they say. Let's hope so.

Viewsonic's prodigal son is returning home. After spending several years running European operations for the giant display maker, Christopher Franey is coming back to the United States in July to serve as president of the Americas. Everyone knew it was just a matter of time before ViewSonic chairman James Chu would bring him back. The move is part of a major restructuring at the company. One of the changes involves Jeff Volpe, who will switch from sales and channels to vice president of marketing. Meanwhile, Franey plans on conducting a search for a top sales executive who can oversee channels for the company.

Franey was responsible for much of ViewSonic's gains in the channel in the mid-'90s. Yet he comes back to a different landscape. ViewSonic's channel is much broader than when Franey crossed the pond, and its hold on the channel is much looser as evidenced by recent VARBusiness Annual Report Card results. In addition, NEC-Mitsubishi and Samsung have both focused competitively on ViewSonic, dethroning it as the most creative marketer of displays in the industry. Suffice to say, Franey faces a big challenge as the incoming president of CA.

Yes, this is the big varbusiness 500 issue and I didn't write a word about it here. Why? Because I only have so much space, so please read this issue and check out for additional features. In the meantime, let me know what you think of CA at

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