CA product lines get second overhaul

For the second time in the past four months, Computer Associates International Inc. is reshuffling its sprawling 1,200-product software line-up in an effort to make it easier for users to get a handle on the various tools and applications the company sells.

Islandia, N.Y.-based 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. As part of the move, CA will create three product groupings, undoing a catchall middleware category that was just put in place in July.

Perhaps most significantly, CA will roll its Jasmine ii database and middleware technology into a new 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 product group along with its 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 wasn’t 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 at Wachovia Corp. in Charlotte, N.C., and president of the Charlotte Modeling Users Group, which is made up of companies that use CA’s ERwin data modelling and BPwin business process modelling tools.

The modelling software will be split off 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. That’s especially important because CA “has had the reputation in the past of purchasing companies and letting their software tools kind of flounder,” she said.

Given the breadth of products CA sells, analysts said, it isn’t surprising that some users are baffled by parts of the line-up – 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 Inc. in Framingham, Mass. Overall, he said, the rebranding should bring more clarity for users as well as CA’s own employees, and it could help the company do a better job of focusing its research and development efforts.

Ben Ettlinger, lead data administrator at the Albany-based New York Power Authority, a state-run power generation agency that also uses the ERwin tool, said he wasn’t confused by CA’s previous product branding. But the revamping efforts “may represent a realization on their part of the need to make the [product] catalogue easier to navigate” for other users, he said.

Another CA user was less impressed. The planned changes “will not fix any of the real problems,” said an administrator at a large school district in the southeastern U.S. 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’re compensated, 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.