CA Rebranding Effort May Not Be Enough

Company's attempt to clear up its complex array of products is being met with skepticism from observers who say it will take much more than name changes to solve the company's problems.

Computer Associates International Inc. is set this week to embark on another rebranding effort. But its attempt to clear up its complex array of products is being met with skepticism from observers who say it will take much more than name changes to solve the companys problems.

At the center of the Islandia, N.Y., software makers effort is a plan to morph its Jasmine brand back into its original identity as an object-oriented database. The application life cycle management products that had been added to the Jasmine group will now fall under the companys existing ADvantage group.

The Jasmine data management and application development products will be rebranded with the AllFusion name, and CAs portal and business intelligence solutions will fall under the CleverPath name.

The BrightStor, eTrust and Unicenter brands will continue. CA officials declined numerous requests for comment.

Whether the No. 3 software makers latest rebranding effort will succeed is an open question, but the motivation for the move is clear.

CA customers and Wall Street alike have been critical for years of the companys lack of focus. Its product line is a mélange of hundreds of point solutions, many of which were added through the companys dozens of acquisitions. Often, those acquired products had little or no relationship to CAs other software.

As a result, products were lumped together in broad groups with vague titles that meant little to customers. Add to that the still-common perception that CA is just a vendor of software for big-iron mainframes, and the result is a muddled marketing message that hampered sales efforts, CA sources said.

"CA is a huge company with a lot of good products, but customers just thought we were a mainframe shop," said one CA employee who requested anonymity. "And a lot of those customers hate the mainframe software because of the maintenance fees."

The mainframe software sales organization is separate from the rest of the CA sales team. According to the source, when CA salespeople go into an existing mainframe customer site to sell other CA products, the customer spends the first several meetings venting his or her anger about the companys tactics and its notorious maintenance contracts.

"CA is a selling organization; they dont do a good job of supporting [their products]," said one longtime CA customer who asked not to be named. "Theres all kinds of CA shelfware out there. Its difficult to work with CA."

"Some people are quite rabid in their hatred of CA," said Patrick Dryden, an analyst at Meta Group Inc., in Stamford, Conn. "Brands alone wont solve their problems."

This perception was not lost on CA executives, but previous efforts by the company to recast itself as a provider of cutting-edge integrated solutions have fallen short. Now, employees and industry observers say managements patience with these overhauls may be wearing thin.

"They buy so many products, and then they just sit on the shelf and everything still comes back to the mainframes," the CA source said.