CRN Interview: Computer Associates' Sanjay Kumar

Computer Associates International Chairman and CEO Sanjay Kumar recently spoke with Editor Heather Clancy and Section Editor Jennifer Hagendorf Follett about the vendor's latest channel program, which was launched last month at CA World in Las Vegas. Here are excerpts from the interview. To read more of the conversation with Kumar, visit CRN online.

CRN: What was your reaction when you reviewed the channel program your team had put together?

Kumar: Well, I knew they were working on this. They had come to me and talked to me about some changes they wanted to make. As you probably know, from the time George [Kafkarkou, senior vice president of worldwide channel operations] came in here, I've given them a pretty good amount of room to go do some things in the channel because it's really important for us to get this right.

We've tried it a couple of times,in some areas we've been successful, in some areas we haven't,and we've gotten the more successful people in the company who have gotten it right in some geographies to come over here and do it for North America and grow a worldwide plan.

So when they came to us and said they want to drive more demand through partners, they want to put some back-end technology together to share leads, put a program together to essentially incent partners to effectively attempt to do more with CA across product areas, I liked it, and I gave them some guidelines about some things.

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I was more interested in things I didn't think would make sense. For example, I didn't want to introduce any conflict by adjusting the plan. I wanted to make sure there was a no-conflict model. %85 I also wanted to make sure that somehow we didn't take the focus away from storage.

I also told them that we have to design something %85 that's capable of taking on other products, so don't design something just for storage that we'll have to redesign when we want to go to something else. I'm pretty pleased with what they've done.

CRN: Do you have a time frame that you'll give this program to work?

Kumar: The best indicator of progress, positive or negative, is what partners tell you after six months.

In three months, if the partners understand it, I think you're doing the right thing. In six months, if you're not seeing business move in the direction the program wants it to move, then I think there is a problem.

CRN: At last year's CA World conference, you issued a challenge to partners to put forth the effort to connect with the direct-sales force %85 and at that time you were expecting the channel-preferred model [for CA's BrightStor enterprise storage products] to really boost overall channel sales. But that actually didn't happen. They were down 9 percent. Did the channel drop the ball there?

Kumar: Well, I think two things happened. No. 1, there are a number of partners who took us up on the challenge and took us up on the program %85 and I think they were successful. %85 The mistake that we made was that we weren't sophisticated enough to distinguish between those that wanted to just dabble and those that were serious about it, so we put a lot of time and effort into trying to cultivate every single person. ...

The second [mistake] I think we've corrected before is with our new Customer Interaction Center in Tampa, Fla., and the distribution of leads and the way we manage those things. %85 There's a follow-through both on the CA direct side and on the channel partner side as well. I think it's a much more sophisticated way of working because last year we generated all these leads, we farmed them out and we didn't have a logical follow-through process.

CRN: Can you talk about the decision to keep North American direct sales under a separate executive and not combine it with channel sales under one person, which is the model you adopted in Europe?

Kumar: In North America, I think the issue is two things: One, the channel organization is large,or larger,in terms of scale than in Europe. %85 And I think the most important reason to keep it separate is focus. %85 The folks sit down the hall from each other, literally, so there's a high degree of interaction at the management level, but we decided as a management team that getting [Kafkarkou] to focus relentlessly on the channel and to worry about that, and to have somebody like Gary [Quinn, executive vice president of sales and field operations] supervising it who's not dragged into the day-to-day business of running a big North American direct-sales organization was the right thing to do.

I think for the foreseeable future it will stay that way. It allows us to make the changes we're making and gives us the ability to look at the channel as an important part of the business.