Canucks hopeful as Kumar exits CA

Hot on the heels of its annual user conference in May came the news this month that Computer Associates Inc.’s former top boss has severed all ties with the company.

It was announced on June 4 that former CEO Sanjay Kumar was resigning his post as chief software architect, the seat of which he had barely sat down in. Kumar took the title April 21 after stepping down from the CEO spot. That move came in the wake of admissions from CA that sales figures for certain periods in 2000 and 2001 had been incorrectly reported. The company is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

CA appointed Kenneth Cron as interim CEO at the same time Kumar stepped down. The company is currently looking outside the company for a new chief. Richard Ptak, co-founder of analyst firm Ptak Ptak, Noel & Associates in Amherst, N.H., said Kumar’s leaving could be an indication that he will be indicted. Otherwise, he sees no reason for Kumar’s resignation.

“It would seem that is why he is severing the relationship (with CA) to protect the company and so he won’t impact them in the future,” he said. At the CA World user conference held in Las Vegas last month, Ptak said he spoke with numerous CA customers and employees who indicated they were comfortable with Kumar and considered him to be a positive influence on the company. Ptak said there was no indication that users will forsake CA’s products because of the company’s financial woes.

Additionally, he said Kumar’s departure shouldn’t impact CA negatively in the short term because it still has a good strategy, a strong set of offerings and a lot of talent present in the company.

“A bigger impact will be in the financial markets, because financial analysts will be reluctant to recommend the stock as a buy until (the financial issues) are sorted out,” he said.

Some Canadian users of CA wares in attendance at the show also indicated a commitment to, and confidence in, CA’s offerings despite the recent financial fiasco and executive-level upheaval.

For instance, Gordon Butler, chief information technology officer for the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corp. in Ottawa, said his outfit “isn’t too concerned” over the vacant CEO post. “[CA] has strong technical expertise, and there have been customer service improvements.”

Butler said that in the past, he found the CA decision-making process to be “bureaucratic,” and that feedback from the company was often slow in coming because decisions “had to go to the top” before a response was given to the museum.

Butler added that it was most likely “user frustration” that led to CA improving its customer service approach. He said he believes CA “always tends to be on the forefront of innovation,” and he was encouraged by some of the wireless technology CA debuted at the show that will help his user base of 550 employees communicate more easily. (For more on CA’s forthcoming Wireless Site Management product, see page 8.)

The museum chose to rely heavily on CA’s services arm and has 12 CA employees working on site. Some of the biggest tasks that CA’s software is being used for include a digitization process whereby four million artifacts are being scanned and made available online.

“It’s hard for our size company to deploy [such technology],” Butler said. “Managed services is the key.”

At the City of Saskatoon, CA’s Unicenter management platform is in use, serving a base of about 1,000 workstations. Also deployed is the company’s BrightStor SAN Manager for use in its storage area network and CA’s BrightStor Enterprise Backup offering. The demands from the City’s different departments to ramp up wireless access and other cutting-edge technological developments continually increases the tech department’s stress levels, according to Peter Farquharson, technology integration manager, corporate information services for the City.

“This is more than a nine-to-five job. Growth is coming from everywhere.”

Some of those demands include mechanics working on city vehicles wanting to have 802.11 wireless connectivity on the laptops they use in the shop. Also, many departments are increasing the amount of data they collect, such as survey crews measuring sidewalks and other municipal elements.

Despite such fast-paced times for his crew, Farquharson did not seem overly concerned about Kumar’s stepping down or the accounting fiasco.

“It won’t affect the quality of the software; that won’t decline,” he said, adding that Kumar had led the company well and was a technologist. In terms of a replacement, Farquharson said he’d “rather see someone with a technology background” as opposed to someone more savvy on the marketing end of things.

For Mike Stevenson, enterprise administrator, computer services for Peel Regional Police in Brampton, Ont., hopefully CA’s future will include further advances in its technology to help him demonstrate the return on investment on technology to the force’s higher-ups. “Doing so manually, it’s tough,” he said.

– with files from Rebecca Reid

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