CA: Channel's Reach Is Key

Though just appointed president and CEO-elect of Computer Associates International, John Swainson already has a strong sense of what he needs to accomplish. Swainson, who left IBM to join CA, and Gary Quinn, CA's executive vice president for partner advocacy, talk about CA's evolving product plans and the channel's expanded role in the Islandia, N.Y., software vendor's strategy with Editor In Chief Michael Vizard, Editor/NEWS SteveN Burke and Senior Editor Dan Neel.

CRN: After a long career at IBM, what motivated you to take on this role at CA?

SWAINSON: The opportunity to lead one of the leading software businesses in the world was what attracted me. I'd been the No. 2 guy at IBM Software for years and done a lot of different jobs there. I had a great time and a great career, and I loved doing it. But this represented an opportunity to provide leadership in a broader, more public sense. And, frankly, the more I came to understand about CA and its prospects, the more excited I became about the potential.

CRN: How will you bring all of CA's offerings together in a cohesive manner?

SWAINSON: You have to correlate all these things. You have to have a story for the marketplace about how this fits together. We have 500 products. You can't go to market with 500 messages. You have to go to market with one message or maybe two messages. Let's face it: Five years ago, this was an acquisition vehicle for contracts. We've changed a great deal since then. We've become much more of a bona fide software company. But we need to continue that transition. We have the corporate brand that has some rust on the edges and we've got to do some work around that. Not all the attributes in the CA brand are viewed positively in the marketplace.

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CRN: What role will the channel play?

SWAINSON: We've only started to really explore the use of the channel to reach markets. Gary [Quinn] and his team have done a great job, but we're just getting started. There's huge potential there. Heaven knows how good this could be if we do some things well and execute well around our products, customers and in the channel. One key thing is that we design our channel programs so we don't have a services team that's going to take away service revenue from our partners. There's a huge opportunity for the channel. We need channel partners. We can't reach the midmarket without channel partners. There are certain niches even in the enterprise we can't reach without channel partners.

QUINN: We don't normally have a services organization. We have one, but we need that for some customers that want us to deliver services for particular products. But in most cases, we don't have anything beyond implementation. We're not building up a business like IBM Global Services. Our major thrust right now is finding full-service partners that can support a mixed environment that uses our management solutions.

CRN: Where will the channel engage with CA?

SWAINSON: We're going to go to market outside the enterprise space through channel partners. Right now, we're starting to expand our list. Gary's done a great job of building this program from nothing a year ago to something today. But it's still embryonic because we're being very careful about picking people who have the right profile. But we shouldn't be under any illusions about how long that will take. One of the reasons we don't have as many people as we would like in this program right now is that there haven't been that many people to date who have been focused on this secure enterprise management area.

CRN: Are you going to do anything to make it easier to engage with CA?

SWAINSON: Our sales force used to be focused on the named accounts. Now we are shifting that focus to managing a territory. One of the subtleties in that shift is that you then have to pay attention to all the people that play in that territory, including your channel partners. We are telling our sales team that they are not simply responsible for the thousand named accounts, but they also have their territory responsibility.

QUINN: The direction we were moving in North America was the same model that we had in Europe, which was we moved all the components of the business under a territory manager. The territory manager is responsible for growing that entire business. The guy who runs the territory is responsible for giving customers [a] choice as to whether they would like to do something directly with us, and he's responsible for all the channel business that goes on. And he's measured a different way. He's not measured on, 'Did I get a sale today?' He's measured on, 'Am I growing a business on an annual basis?'

CRN: What percentage of CA's revenue do you think will come through the channel in 2006?

SWAINSON: We're just in the process of figuring out what the fiscal 2006 picture is going to look like. But I think 30 percent through the channel is a realistic design point for us.