Computer Associates' Next CEO Gets To Work

Hired from IBM, CEO-elect John Swainson plans to move fast, without mimicking the software or services strategy of his former employer.
Computer Associates' incoming CEO, John Swainson, will move quickly to reinvigorate the company's core businesses of systems management, security, and related products. He plans to do it without mimicking the software and services strategy of his former employer, IBM.

"I'm not under any illusions about our ability to compete with IBM on WebSphere or Oracle on databases," Swainson said in an interview Wednesday, one day after being named president, CEO-elect, and a board member of Computer Associates. "That's not what we're trying to do. You can't fool yourself into thinking you're going to take on the big guys across the whole product line."

Until this week, Swainson was VP of IBM's worldwide sales organization, and, before that, general manager of IBM Software's Application and Integration Middleware division, which develops the WebSphere line. For the next four to six months, Swainson will report to Computer Associates' interim CEO, Ken Cron, while he works out a product strategy. Unanimously approved by CA's board of directors, Swainson will then take over as CEO.

Swainson plans to keep CA on its current product track, emphasizing systems-management, storage-management, security, and application-life-cycle management software, or what the company refers to as enterprise infrastructure management. In a conference call with analysts Tuesday, Swainson said that means CA won't be competing with IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, or Sun Microsystems outside of those core areas. "We don't intend to be a platform provider; we intend to partner with platform providers," he said.

Nor does Swainson foresee expanding CA's services offerings beyond its focus on supporting the company's own products. "I have no intention of trying to compete with Accenture or IBM Global Services or Ernst & Young," he says. "We're not going to be a systems integrator."

But Swainson does anticipate moving quickly, either through internal development or acquisition, to strengthen CA's offerings in infrastructure management. "If we move slowly, if we're complacent, if we aren't aggressive, we'll get beat out by faster, more nimble competitors," he says.

Swainson has already begun contacting some of CA's largest customers to introduce himself, and he's planning to attend a customer event in Washington in mid-December. One day after Swainson was named president and CEO-elect, CA reversed an earlier decision to cancel next year's CA World conference. The company now says it plans to host CA World sometime in the fall of 2005.

"I'm going to spend a lot of time listening to our customers and channel partners to make sure I fully understand what they need us as a partner to do for them," Swainson says.

CA's newest executive plans to project a squeaky-clean image in a company that's emerging from a lengthy federal investigation into its accounting practices. Former CEO Sanjay Kumar was indicted in September on fraud charges, following indictments of several other former executives. Says Swainson, "As CEO, my role will be to set the example."