Ram Varadarajan Talks About CA's Approach to Enterprise Innovation

In a Q&A with eWEEK, Ram Varadarajan, CA's GM of New Business Innovation, discusses how his company is driving innovation for its customers.

LAS VEGAS— Ram Varadarajan, the general manager of New Business Innovation at CA Technologies, knows a little bit about innovating and growing a successful software company. Varadarajan founded Arcot Systems, an authentication and fraud management company, in 1997 and led it until it was acquired by CA in 2010. Since joining CA after the sale of his company, he has been active in leading new business innovations inside CA. He previously was the executive director of research and development at Informix Software and worked as a project manager for distributed security systems at Odyssey Research. He sat down with eWEEK reporter Todd R. Weiss here at CA World 2013 to talk about the company's new direction and goals.

CA has certainly come a long way since its founding back in 1976 by Charles Wang and his business partner Russell Artzt. It has morphed and changed and continues to do so today. So where is CA today in the enterprise IT marketplace?

To grow, companies can do innovation or they can acquire other companies. We are in hybrid mode, doing some of each. CA is truly living up to the words you are hearing from us here at CA World—building more from within. And we're doing it in a manner that is fast, robust, customer-centric and using modern development methods when it makes sense, like SaaS [software as a service]. Our roles are to be catalysts to helping an organization take the ideas that they have to move forward.

So how are you doing that? How is your company working to drive innovation for your customers?

Innovation is happening all over at CA. It's not just 13 people in a department who have been sprinkled with holy water to do innovation. We aim to give people the confidence to actually think aloud and not to have fear of failure.

One place we are doing that is in the mobility market with mobile device management [MDM]. If you look at the number of MDM companies over the last few years, there are many and they are all point solutions. Then look at the number of devices they are managing in total inside businesses compared to the total number of mobile devices out in the marketplace. It's a drop in the ocean.

It's still so early in this market. We have a much broader view beyond just the device. We have a view of mobility as an enabler, to help businesses keep in touch with their customers better. We want to help people build new business models and for them to work to be able to communicate with their customers differently.

You've now been with CA for two years. What changes are you seeing inside the company since the arrival of your energetic new CEO, Michael Gregoire, this past January?

Having a new CEO is a pivot point. It can help you accelerate that journey of change. He has brought a new level of energy to the game. It has a rallying effect and is palpable by his being here. Our 6,000 engineers hear him and his messages of investing and moving forward. That's what engineers want to hear.

We want to be No. 1 in mobility. And he's here to do that and make that happen. We're also working on analytics. We're not making much noise about it here, but we have team of people working on it right now. When we say 'Go Big' [a new sales slogan], we actually really mean it.

Here at CA World, Gregoire said that one of his major goals for CA is to find ways to help longtime customers move away from their old legacy application releases and bring in the latest, most feature-filled applications that can truly transform their companies' operations. He said he wants the company to help customers be able to achieve this goal. But isn't that just a way for a vendor to seek out new revenue by getting their longtime customers to replace perfectly good older applications with new versions that will mean significant outlays of IT dollars?

This is a deliberate move at CA. Clearly there is a benefit for users to not have to continue to update old applications, and new applications bring new innovations. In many cases, customers are happy to do this, but we haven't told them that if they move to Version X here that there are 50 more powerful things you can do with it. Some will not want to move. On a case-by-case basis we will evaluate whether it makes sense to eat some of the costs to get them there.

Because our new CEO comes from a SaaS company and background, he brings this focus. SaaS brings the updates in for customers over time without them having to start over with each new release. That is what you are seeing in all of these conversations.

What else should the IT community know about CA's innovations road map right now?

Design wins are really important at CA. When you have good product designs, the fruits come downstream in terms of new products. Those are the kinds of things where earlier CEOs may not have been willing to make those kinds of investments, but the new CEO is willing to do that.