Will life begin again at 40-plus for software veteran CA?

Will life begin again at 40-plus for software veteran CA?

Things get off to a slightly rocky start when I join the conference call with CA Technologies president and chief products officer Ayman Sayed. That’s because the perception of CA, I suggest in my bold opening gambit, is that it’s a moribund company, dependent on a regular infusion of fresh blood from acquisitions and a cash cow mainframe software legacy.

A pause. “When was the last time you looked carefully at the company?” Sayed asks. A little while back, I confess. Another pause. “CA is very different now to in the past and I’d encourage you to look again,” he suggests.

OK, let’s look at CA then. When I first knew of the company in the early 1990s it was calling itself the biggest independent software vendor in the world, having minded riches in the wake of IBM being debarred from selling its hardware as part and parcel with software and services. But CA was about to be displaced and rather overshadowed by Microsoft, a change emblematic of the morphing of the mainframe era into the client/server age.

Back then, CA was calling itself Computer Associates and attempting to build its own DOS and Windows software business but struggling against Microsoft, Lotus, WordPerfect, Borland and others. The name change to its abbreviation (CA Inc. and then later CA Technologies) came after a series of controversies, most notably the sentencing in 2006 of former CEO Sanjay Kumar to a long spell in prison over accounting fraud.

Founded in 1976, CA had long been known as one of the most acquisitive companies in tech and post-Kumar it went on the trail again, buying up companies in network management, security, IT governance, identity management, datacentre automation and monitoring, and software development.

Kumar was released in March this year but CA is today at pains to present itself as a very different company, one that is part of a new zeitgeist that is seeing software eating the world, to paraphrase Marc Andreessen. Sayed himself joined CA in 2015 after 16 years at Cisco and is part of what he calls an “all-star” team determined to reinvent the company as a supplier of tools for transformation and development. The companies CA serves are various “but they all have one thing in common – they’re all going through transformation”, he says. “These companies are increasingly becoming powered by software and we want to help them to build their own modern software factories. We firmly believe it’s time to change software from being a craft and want to accelerate time between ideas and outcomes.”

That phrase “modern software factory” is salted throughout everything CA says and certainly the company has a broad and rich portfolio of tools that are growing both organically and through M&A deal making. Agile software development and DevOps are augmented by security and Sayed says he wants to see CA involved at every stage of the software lifecycle from planning to testing, releasing, deploying, operating and collecting feedback. In a way the company that CA today resembles is Pivotal, the hot development service that uses many of the processes and tools of Silicon Valley royalty to energise firms today and inject them with a booster of that pioneering ethos.

Sayed says that at CA he is supporting “internal startups” that will graduate in some cases to become business units, and he wants to help customers achieve something analogous. He is a fan of the way that the big consulting firms such as Deloitte, IBM, PwC and Accenture have got involved in design and the user experience.

“We’re championing it and putting the customer first and delighting them,” he says, adding that the new normal for CA and customers is to “look at wireframes before code is even written … design is at the heart of what we do.”

About 80 per cent of the senior management team are fairly new, Sayed says, and customers that are willing to hear the new story say “wow, that’s not the CA I know”. About half of revenues still come from that mainframe legacy, he concedes, but the new streams are “coming at a faster clip” and CA is delivering “decent” year-on-year growth. Certainly CA remains a software powerhouse with a market cap not far short of $15bn.

He says he is “super-excited to change world we live work and play today we have an opportunity to change the business landscape” using tools such as machine learning. As for my initial perceptions and prejudices, Sayed says they are from “an old snapshot frozen in time”.

In a press release covering CA’s most recent quarter CA CEO Mike Gregoire said, “In many ways we are just getting started.” Between my call and writing this story there was another sign that CA is willing to gamble as reports suggested that CA and BMC are exploring a combination that would create an even bigger datacentre giant. Who knows, for this company founded in 1976, perhaps life really will begin at 40.


Also read:
Binding Corporate Rules might restore data exchange trust
Pivotal’s London move bets on a cooling in offshoring


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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Editorial Consultant for IDG Connect

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STS Software on August 01 2017

Thanks for the information, CA definitely is a great software company in the USA. Not sure when they appear in Asia.


STS Software on August 01 2017

Thanks for the information, CA definitely is a great software company in the USA. Not sure when they appear in Asia.

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