Partners Give CA Low Marks In Communications

Increasingly, partners are complaining that CA's channel-friendly message isn't playing out in practice. They complain of inadequate explanations concerning changes to the vendor's organization, changes that often come as a surprise.

For example, in the last two weeks alone, several CA partners were upset by the sudden layoffs of many CA sales representatives. Officials for CA, Islandia, N.Y., did not comment on the layoffs.

The partners making these complaints against CA sell primarily into the midmarket, an area CA has said for more than a year it eyes as a crucial growth sector. In fact, many partners now refuse to complain on the record because of pressure from the vendor to toe the company line, these partners said.

The disconnect being felt by CA partners widened this week as CA announced it would move its direct sales force to a named account model, and that it had completed a transition from a "brand unit" management structure to a "business unit" one.

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The named account model gives direct sales preferred access to 12,278 CA customers in North America, and unspecified incentives to enlist partners in the delivery of professional services based on a VAR's particular expertise. CA partners can solicit named accounts, as long as it's in conjunction with the direct sales force. As for the new business unit management structure, it creates five separately managed business units covering systems management, security, storage, business service optimization and other general products, according to CA.

Todd Pekats, director of strategic alliances at CompuCom Systems, a CA partner in Dallas, said he never received the letter CA said it had sent Monday to all partners explaining the new named account model. What he did see was almost half a dozen CA account representatives from the vendor's Tampa, Fla., support center suddenly disappear in the days leading up to this week's changes.

Pekats does brisk business with CA products, and said he has faith in certain CA executives, such as George Fischer, senior vice president of North American sales. Fischer, along with Gary Quinn, executive vice president of partner advocacy, co-authored of the letter Pekats never received.

But Pekats complained that much more could be done by CA to keep partners better informed. "Truthfully, it doesn't sound as if they are really interested in what's going on with their partners," said Pekats. "We've seen a couple of really good [CA] people disappear just a week ago. In fact, five were cut from Tampa, and two of them never saw it coming either. One told me 'CA is just churning and burning.'"

Jay Tipton, vice president of business solutions at Technology Specialists, a CA partner in Fort Wayne, Ind., said he hasn't received the promised letter, either.

In that letter, a copy of which was provided to CRN last Friday by CA, Quinn and Fischer say the change to the named account model is a way to provide "new incentives for driving sales through [CA's] partner channel." CA has not explained how the letter was distributed to partners.

Tipton said his CA sales representative's final day was last week. "My sales rep was [among those laid off]. He did not know who my new rep was. In fact, I still don't know who my new rep is," said Tipton. Many CA sales representatives were given the choice to either relocate to the Florida support center or lose their jobs, Tipton said.

"They say they care so much about the channel and then they drop the ball," said Tipton.

Dennis Norby, senior account manager at Ciber, a CA partner in Greenwood Village, Colo., also hasn't received the letter. He said the shuffling of CA's channel representatives seems to confuse even the representatives themselves. "We had one new representative show up I haven't seen before. He had been on the direct side, then they moved him out of support and to the sales side, and now he was in pre-sale support. It even had his head spinning," said Norby.

Like Pekats, Norby hears CA's message of becoming a good channel partner. But he worries that CA isn't explaining the reasons behind the changes.

"Anytime there is a restructuring, and the direct people have responsibilities, it throws a seed of doubt in there," he said.

"What it comes right down to is we in the channel need to have a better understanding of what's going on from CA," said the vice president of a major Midwestern CA partner, who requested anonymity. "They haven't gotten any better at that," said the partner, who has not received the letter from CA, but was provided a copy from CRN.

"I've read the letter and it makes no sense as to what effect it's really going to have on us," the partner said.