IBMs Swainson Takes CA Helm

In an effort to rebuild its scandal-stained image and infuse its executive ranks with fresh faces, Computer Associates International tapped one of its chief competitor's lieutenants to lead the embattled software franchise.

In an effort to rebuild its scandal-stained image and infuse its executive ranks with fresh faces, Computer Associates International Inc. tapped one of its chief competitors lieutenants to lead the embattled software franchise.

Former IBM software executive John Swainson takes over as the new president and CEO of CA, company officials in Islandia, N.Y., announced last week. Swainson, who led IBMs successful WebSphere unit for several years, got the nod to guide CAs future over interim CEO Kenneth Cron.

Cron will remain interim CEO for the next four to six months to help ease Swainsons transition into his role at the company, which has been rocked by Securities and Exchange Commission investigations into accounting fraud and subsequent executive indictments.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read more about CA Interim CEO Kenneth Cron.

Swainson was most recently vice president of worldwide software sales at IBM, a post he occupied since July. In a press conference last week, Swainson said that although he was open to a renewed acquisition strategy, he stressed that he will not divert CAs product lines into new areas that mirror his WebSphere development work.

"The play were going to run at CA is not the same as the play I ran at IBM. We dont intend to be a platform provider; we intend to partner with platform providers," Swainson said during the conference. "IBM, Microsoft [Corp.], Oracle [Corp.], Sun [Microsystems Inc.]—all of these guys need a partner to provide security management, storage management and systems management solutions."

Swainsons immediate appointment to CAs board of directors expands the board to 10 members. The company said it will add two outside members in the near future.

In addition to its new CEO, CA is reviewing chief financial officer candidates and will make a selection soon to replace interim CFO Jeff Clarke, said Swainson.

Analysts say the companys choice of new leadership is vital to rebuilding its damaged reputation and improving a generally poor track record for customer service.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read a column by eWEEK.coms John Pallatto calling for CA to put san outsider in charge.

"I am sure one of the reasons that I am there is I dont have a connection with the [companys] past. I have no doubts thats why Im here," said Swainson in an interview with eWEEK following the announcement. "All of these things really have represented a distraction to the company, and it is, in fact, remarkable how well this company has gone on, given whats been going on around it and inside of it."

Before becoming top sales executive for IBM software, Swainson was general manager of the IBM Software Groups application and integration middleware division, where he helped nurture WebSphere. In that role, he was responsible for the development, marketing and sales of IBMs middleware products, including the WebSphere family of offerings, application development tools, MQSeries, communications products and transaction processing wares such as its CICS line.

Despite a muddled picture across CAs product lines, Swainsons stellar reputation at IBM should serve him well in charting CAs new course, according to several customers.

"I dont know what corporate is doing. Theyre painting the shelfware image again," said a large CA customer who asked not to be named. "Their marketing plan is killing them. Change takes a long time, and when its effective, its because of leadership. I see IBM taking care of its customers, so when I see that an IBM guy is coming in, maybe thats a good thing."

Another customer, James Jones, said, "Our relationship with CA has been very good all along. We have worked closely with their technical teams in the past to make product improvements to better meet our requirements, and they have made those changes quickly."

A member of the Information Services Division technical services staff at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Jones also said, "I like the direction CA has been taking, especially their acquisition of Pest Patrol and their promise to scale it to large enterprises of our size in the near future. A permanent CEO will solidify their corporate direction and timelines for product deliverables. Our relationship with them will only improve with the change."

Additional reporting by Dennis Fisher

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