Can Computer Associates become more user friendly?

The past two years has seen Computer Associates make sweeping changes in an attempt to change its public image, but market...

The past two years has seen Computer Associates make sweeping changes in an attempt to change its public image, but market perceptions are notoriously difficult to turn around, and the company is still dogged by echoes of its past. The time is therefore ripe to ask whether the leopard really can change its spots.

Since its inception over 25 years ago when founder Charles B.Wang started his business in New York with just four employees, CA has specialised in multi-platform software, and in software that manages the many aspects of an organisation’s hardware and software assets.

Early products included file management,database management, security management and infrastructure management offerings,and the company’s stock was listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in 1986.

Current Chairman and CEO, Sanjay Kumar, joined the company in 1987 through its acquisition of UCCEL,was appointed President and CEO in August 2000, and assumed the Chairmanship in November 2002, on the retirement of Charles B.Wang.During the 1990s, CA went on an aggressive trail of acquisitions, including Cheyenne Software (1996), Platinum Technology (1999), and Sterling Software (2000).

This strategy left CA with a large portfolio of products, covering a number of different areas, which could broadly be split into four groups: mainframe software, Unicenter enterprise systems management software, client/server tools, and the management and application development products produced by Platinum and Sterling.

The problem was that customers had no clear view of CA’s direction, and were understandably nervous of the company’s long-term commitment to many of the products it had acquired.The situation was compounded by CA’s reputation as a vendor that was rather inflexible to do business with, and which tended to sign customers up to long-term software contracts.

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