Computer Associates International has named 26-year IBM veteran John Swainson as its president and future CEO, anointing him as the successor to ousted top executive Sanjay Kumar. But in a rapid succession of events, the company also canceled its CA World 2005 user conference and then reinstated the event after getting complaints from customers. In a letter sent to users, CA said it had decided to postpone the next CA World until the spring of 2006 in order to "redefine" the show, which attracts thousands of attendees from around the world. But in an interview later, Swainson said the software vendor will hold CA World 2005 after all, although the conference will take place next fall instead of in April.
Swainson said he initially thought the decision to cancel next year's conference made sense because as a relatively new leader, it would be hard for him "to stand up and articulate a strong strategy" for CA. Without specifying what prompted the change in CA's thinking, Swainson said he realized that some users were concerned about losing momentum for new initiatives.
CA hasn't set a date for the conference, and Swainson said the event will have to be managed by an outside firm because some of the workers who helped run CA World in the past are no longer at the company. But he vowed that the conference will be "something that really does live up to its reputation."
Gregg Smith, a Windows NT administrator at Media General Inc. in Richmond, Va., said he's glad that CA is restoring CA World 2005. But he added that he would have preferred the conference to be held in April, prior to CA's scheduled release of upgraded help desk software. "By fall, the new releases will already be out," said Smith, who is president of the Mid-Atlantic Help Desk User Group for CA customers.
Tyler McGraw, a database administrator at paper maker Bowater Inc. in Greenville, S.C., said CA's change of heart on the 2005 conference was "a good thing." McGraw has used CA's Ingres database for the past 15 years and was buoyed by the company's decision, announced at CA World 2004 in May, to release the software under an open-source license.
Waiting until 2006 to hold the next CA World could have stopped the momentum of open-source Ingres among end users in its tracks, McGraw said. "Obviously, Swainson made his decision to have it in the fall because many people felt the same way," he added.
Swainson, 50, was added to CA's board and given the title of president and CEO-elect for the time being. At his most recent job at IBM, he served as vice president of the company's worldwide software sales force. Prior to that, he was general manager of the application integration tools and middleware division within IBM's software group.
According to CA, Swainson will report to interim CEO Kenneth Cron during a transition period that's expected to last four to six months. Swainson will initially focus on product strategy and development, while Cron oversees the other parts of CA's business.
Jeff Clarke, CA's chief operating officer and chief financial officer, will report to Cron during the transition period. Clarke, who joined CA last March, is responsible for sales, marketing, business development and finance.
Cron has been interim CEO since April, when Kumar was stripped of his chairman and CEO titles as federal regulators and prosecutors investigated CA for alleged accounting irregularities. Kumar was subsequently named chief software architect but then left CA in June. In September, he was indicted on charges of securities fraud, conspiracy and obstruction of justice, to which he pleaded not guilty.
During a teleconference this week, Swainson said he wants to increase CA's share of the market for enterprise management software. "We have an opportunity to grow that lead and expand into new markets and niches . . . like wireless," he said.
But Swainson acknowledged that CA's relations with users often have been problematic. "There's clearly a legacy here of difficult customer relations. I'm looking to turn customers back into partners rather than adversaries."
Kumar was credited by many CA users with improving relations, and Smith said he hopes Swainson can keep alive the former CEO's "strong sense of what customers are after."
Swainson said that he's "not looking to dump products" and that CA is committed to supporting its software. But, he added, not every one of CA's 500 or so products "represents the strategic future of how customers want to build and manage their enterprises."
"I'll be interested to see what he does," said McGraw, who noted that CA "has a lot of competing products."
Swainson's hiring is "a good win for CA," said Stephen Elliot, an analyst at IDC. Elliott added that Swainson is a "very credible, very senior choice" who likely will help pick up the pace on software acquisitions "after CA flushes out where they are in product lines and where they want to take the company." -- Computerworld (US)