CA WORLD - Kumar: Customer service is show theme

An internal reorganization aimed at better aligning Computer Associates International's (CA) staff resources with its products was announced Sunday by CA Chief Executive Officer Sanjay Kumar during his customer service-themed opening keynote here at CA World.

CA will henceforth be arranged around brand units focusing on its six core product areas: enterprise management, storage, security, application life cycle management, data management/application development and portals. Brand unit heads will have complete responsibility and accountability for their product portfolios, and will manage functions including development, marketing, support and branding.

CA's client-side staff, including its sales organization, will not be touched by the reorganization, which should be invisible to customers, Kumar said. The realignment, announced Saturday to CA's staff and effective immediately, will not involve any layoffs, he said.

The catalyst for the change is a desire "to put all the pieces for the technology rollout under the control of one person," Kumar said earlier in the day during a press briefing. "The majority of these changes are at the top and are about where the pieces plug in underneath, how various pieces in the middle come under a different manager."

CA is committed to maintaining continuity between its customers and their sales representatives and account managers, a link customers "repeatedly" tell CA is crucial, Kumar said.

Most of his keynote focused on CA's dedication to customer service -- an area in which CA has often been criticized. Last year, CA investor Sam Wyly made CA's customer satisfaction track record a key tenant of his unsuccessful proxy fight to reshape the company's board of directors.

"I think we have reached a plateau where we need to push (customer service) to a whole different level," Kumar said during his keynote.

Toward that end, CA is launching a new service initiative called CustomerConnect, a Web site accessible through ca.com intended to let customers access and update account information electronically. Customers will also be able to use the site to request help with a service issue and download new versions of CA software. Further details on CustomerConnect will be available Tuesday, when the service is formally announced.

A reputation for thorny customer service has long plagued CA, but several CA World attendees interviewed after the keynote said they're generally happy with the company's support, and looking forward to taking advantage of CustomerConnect.

"Of all the partners we deal with, CA's customer service is one of the best. They're good at selling, and they're good at support," said Jason Stothard, chief information officer of the Medical Protection Society Ltd. in the U.K.

Unicenter user Erika Pierce, a computer specialist with the Chicago office of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), said she was "floored" by the CustomerConnect announcement and looks forward to using the interface to download updated software.

GSA has been a Unicenter customer for about five years, and has in the past had trouble working with CA. But about a year ago, all tech support problems vanished. "I've been very impressed," Pierce said. "We spoke up and they listened."

First-time CA World attendee Sheila Wright said she's "absolutely" planning to use CustomerConnect, particularly to update her company's mess of account contact information.

"It will be wonderful to get it up to date," said Wright, a senior systems programmer/analyst with Texas Instruments Inc. in Plano, Texas.

Aside from customer service, Kumar spoke about two areas on which CA plans to focus in the next few years: wireless and Web services technologies. Announcements relating to both will be made this week at CA World, he said.

Kumar stayed away from addressing the myriad of accusations and investigations swirling around CA's accounting practices. The company faces several class-action lawsuits, as well as preliminary investigations by the U.S. attorney's office and the Securities and Exchange Commission and continuing criticism from participants in last year's proxy fight.

In a session with press, Kumar deflected questions about the investigations, saying CA executives "have said we will not get into a public debate about those issues." During his keynote, he merely thanked CA's customers for their loyalty during the "many difficult moments in our company's history this year."

Few details were immediately available on how CA's internal reorganization will manifest itself: Even the brand unit executives' new titles are still in development. The executives and their areas of responsibility are:

-- Russ Artzt, a CA co-founder and the company's current executive vice president of research and development, will head the eTrust security products portfolio-- Wai Wong, now senior vice president and general manager of CA Services, will manage its Unicenter enterprise management products-- Frank Yang, the only brand unit head not currently a member of CA's senior management, will head the BrightStor security software portfolio- -Gary Starkey, senior vice president and general manager of CA's Field Support Group, will oversee the CleverPath portal and AllFusion application life cycle management portfolios- -Mark Combs, senior vice president and knowledge officer, will manage the Advantage data management and application development portfolioCA World continues here through Thursday.

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