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Another overhaul for CA product lines

For the second time in the past four months, Computer Associates (CA) is reshuffling its sprawling 1,200-product software lineup in an effort to make it easier for users to get the various tools and applications the company sells.

CA this week plans to announce an expansion of its core product brands from four to six, and detail enhancements to its Web portal software and Neugents neural network products. The company will create three product groupings, and undo a catch-all middleware category that was put in place in just four months ago.

Perhaps most significantly, CA will roll its Jasmine ii database and middleware technology into a new product grouping of data management and application development tools. Its Web portal software, which has been part of the Jasmine line, will become part of a separate group, along with CA's business intelligence tools.

CA is positioning the latest changes as a further refinement and clarification of its product marketing strategy. A company spokeswoman said the move was not driven by lagging sales but by input from users and industry analysts. "CA is trying to show that we listen to our customers' needs," she said.

The latest realignment is reassuring to Susan Stevens, an IT data administrator and president of the Charlotte Modelling Users Group, which is made up of companies that use CA's ERwin data modelling and BPwin business process modelling tools.

The modelling software is to be split from the Jasmine line and put into a new grouping of tools called AllFusion. Stevens said the plan gives her increased confidence that CA is committed to the continued development of ERwin and BPwin.

Given the breadth of products sold by CA, analysts said, it is unsurprising that some users were baffled by parts of the lineup, particularly Jasmine, which CA has had to go to great lengths to explain.

"I think the Jasmine name had gone through so many cycles that it was proving to be a confusing brand," said Evan Quinn, an analyst at Hurwitz Group. Overall, he said, the rebranding should bring more clarity for users as well as CA's own employees. It could even help the company do a better job of focusing its research and development efforts.

Ben Ettlinger, lead data administrator at the New York Power Authority, a state-run power generation agency that also uses the ERwin tool, said he was not confused by CA's previous product branding. But the revamping efforts "may represent a realisation on their part of the need to make the [product] catalogue easier to navigate", he said.

But other CA users were less impressed. The planned changes "will not fix any of the real problems," said an administrator at a large school district in the southeastern US that runs a number of CA's mainframe software products. A bigger concern is that the company's sales force "does not care about after-the-sale issues" at customer sites because of the way they are paid, said the user, who asked not to be identified.

However, CA is trying to change its reputation of being a less-than-friendly business partner, and other users have given the company credit for improving its customer support.

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