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5/1/2009
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6 Questions With CA CEO John Swainson

The leader of the software management vendor has some very strong feelings about IT innovation, cloud computing, acquisitions, and remaining independent.

InformationWeek: Are you seeing a lot of IT-driven innovation these days?

Swainson: IT departments are clearly doing less innovation now than they were a few quarters ago, because they've been told to pull back from new things, because they have to keep the old stuff going, they have to comply with regulations, and there's obviously things that are of great importance to the business they have to keep focusing on.

So innovation is probably reduced because it's being squeezed a bit by the fixed costs to keep the engine running and the reduced budgets people have. That being said, the only source of new money for innovation people see is finding ways to be more efficient -- be leaner in terms of how they run their infrastructure.

One of the things when we look back is we saw IT-based innovation to some extent outrun companies' ability to govern and manage it. And I'm thinking about financial services when I say that, and some of the products they created. Clearly one of the things that happened was no one really understood the consequences of all of these derivatives and CDOs and the second and third derivatives of these things that ended up getting put together. Clearly, there was not a good way for boards of directors and risk committees to see the consequences of what they were doing.

They wouldn't have done it otherwise. You hear these conversations in Congress and the like about greedy bankers. These guys aren't stupid; they're not trying to blow their jobs up. I think they just didn't know what the consequences of the technology-driven products were.

So the message there is you've always got to keep a balance between how you innovate in terms of new products and services with IT, and the ability to manage, report on, and govern them. ... It's very clear that on a couple of those dimensions, people were building applications that either they couldn't govern or couldn't manage. And in some cases, they couldn't secure them, either. I think the lesson we're all learning out of this is that untrammeled innovation without the right balance around it, leads to bad things. It doesn't have a happy ending.

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