Partners To CA: You've Already Got The Right Man For The Job

George Kafkarkou handled the role in 2003, and today the senior vice president of SMB and consumer markets has the role again—this time in an interim fashion as CA prepares to name a new channel chief to replace Gary Quinn, the former executive vice president for indirect business operations who suddenly resigned in September.

If the Islandia, N.Y.-based vendor overlooks Kafkarkou and taps someone else to run its indirect sales operations, a number of longtime CA partners will be very upset by the decision.

"What the channel ultimately comes down to is building and maintaining relationships and program continuity, and George can certainly execute on that," said Leonard DiCostanzo, senior vice president of professional services at Turnkey Computer, a veteran CA solution provider in Staten, Island, N.Y. "George knows what Gary [Quinn] was trying to accomplish, he knows what the channel needs."

Partners have not forgotten that it was Kafkarkou who was instrumental in developing the pivotal channel program that the notoriously direct-selling CA introduced at its CA World partner event in 2003. Afterward, it was the steady hand of Kafkarkou that held CA's channel efforts in place while the vendor suffered distractions from an accounting scandal, which led to the fall from grace of former chairman and CEO Sanjay Kumar, and other top executives, one CA partner recalled.

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John Swainson, president and CEO of CA, told CRN he is confident in Kafkarkou's ability to run CA's channels until a replacement for Quinn is named. CA declined to say why Kafkarkou should not be the company's channel chief.

The day after Swainson expressed confidence in Kafkarkou, Bill Lipsin was identified by sources close to the vendor as the man Swainson wanted as channel chief. Lipsin was named senior vice president and general manager for CA's Western business in March 2005, a month after Swainson was officially named president and CEO, according to CA. Calls to Lipsin's office and cell phone were not returned. CA declined to comment.

Lipsin is a close personal friend of Swainson's, sources said. Both men graduated from the University of British Columbia, according to their separate bios posted on the CA Web site, and sources say the two men were roommates at the University.

The suggestion that Lipsin could be named CA's channel chief spurred more resentment from CA partners. Most partners requested anonymity, concerned with poisoning relationships with a new channel chief.

"George knows how to run [CA's] channels," one longtime CA partner said, adding that by passing over Kafkarkou, CA was not listening to the desires of its partners. "We are the people who should have a say in this decision."

Another partner said there is still much work left to be done to improve CA's channel programs. Kafkarkou was, and can continue to be, a positive step in that direction, he said. "George was very receptive to the partner community," he said.

Gary Quinn—who has not spoken to CRN since his departure—was one of at least five top-ranking executives to leave CA in the past year.

One of those executives, speaking on conditions of anonymity, said Kafkarkou is not the right man for the job of channel chief at CA.

"George is great, but George is a transactional guy. He's super smart, he can solve any problem, but he solves problems for the week. He gets the number done. If you leave him in place as the change agent, that's a misalignment," the former executive said.

The problem with CA's flailing channel efforts is leadership, the former executive said. "It's leadership. It ultimately boils down to leadership," he said.

Given Kafkarkou's experience with CA's channel partners, he should be offered a chance to continue to run them if that's what he wants, DiCostanzo said. Besides, why bring in a new face when a strong, existing relationship will do, he said.

Then there's the emotional side. Kafkarkou embodies a remnant of a hope that began burning inside partners after Quinn outlined in late August a revolutionary new channel strategy that would dedicate resources to partners in an unprecedented way, another veteran CA partner said.

That strategy, devised with the assistance of Kafkarkou, was meant to triple CA's indirect sales volume and double the number of CA solution provider partners. When Quinn made a pledge to CA partners to execute the strategy, standing beside him on a stage in St. Louis was only one man—George Kafkarkou.


The Channel

July 2003:

Channel chief George Kafkarkou and vide president Gary Quinn craft and launch new channel program.

November 2004:

John Swainson named interim president and CEO.

December 2004:

Kafkarkou ushered into role as senior vice president for consumer and SMB markets.

January 2005:

New channel chief Gary Quinn realigns distribution channels; CA breaks into five business units.

Febuary 2005:

Swainson named full president, CEO.

May 2005:

James Hanley named channel chief, aims to double channel revenue.

June 2006:

James Hanley resigns.

August 2006:

CA announces plans to cut 1,700 jobs; Quinn outlines aggressive new channel strategy.

September 2006:

Quinn resigns and his lieutenant, Kafkarkou, is given interim role; sources say Swainson's friend, sales executive Bill Lipsin, will be new channel chief, and partners rage that Kafkarkou should get the job.