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

CA wants to lead software lifecycles for customers

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.”

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