CA looks to experience with new CEO choice

Analysts suggest Computer Associates International Inc.’s choice of John Swainson for its new CEO shows the company wants to focus on fixing its tarnished image and improving its occasionally caustic relationship with customers.

Swainson, an long-time industry veteran who recently headed up IBM’s WebSphere line of products, will be tasked to assure CA customers that the company has moved beyond the accounting woes that cost several CA executive jobs and saw the company paying out US$225 million to settle charges of accounting irregularities with U.S. Federal prosecutors.

“He is the steady, new captain of the ship,” said Edward Broderick, principle analyst for the Westport, Conn.-based Robert Francis Group, an IT analyst and consulting group. “(John) has a demonstrated track record with no negative image surrounding him, and he is the white knight with a big broom. I expect him to get down and dirty.”

Broderick added Swainson should focus his early energies on to repairing CA’s negative image amongst its customers. This means shaking up CA’s sales force to get them to listen and address customer issues.

The image of CA, in the minds of some, is of a company that is rigid and inflexible. “CA has never been able to shake the perception that they are not fully committed to their customers, and it goes way back to the days of Charles Wang,” said Warren Shiau, an independent industry analyst in Toronto. “It wasn’t that people thought CA did not fully care about them, but the perception was they did not care about their customers at all, not one cent.”

Broderick suggested Swainson’s long service with IBM is an experience he should be able to use in order to help get CA focused on building better relationships with its own customers.There is a level of similarity in the experiences of IBM and CA. In the mainframe days IBM essentially dictated to customers what it thought was best for them. By the 1990s, that focus shifted dramatically.

“(Swainson) is coming from a customer-centric culture,” Broderick said. “That culture pervades all of IBM and the customer is king. He is a customer-centric guy and knows how to manage sales forces and the message CA needs to bring to customers.”

Swainson told journalists during a press briefing on November 23, he will also focus his energies on building CA’s presence in the enterprise infrastructure management space and build new business opportunities.