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CA's Kumar: "We've Changed, I Promise You"

He predicts the software industry will continue to consolidate.
Computer Associates is trying to boost customers' satisfaction with its products and support amid downsizing in the business-software market that will winnow out vendors, chairman and CEO Sanjay Kumar says.

"You're going to see a lot more consolidation in the next few years," Kumar said during a keynote speech Sunday night at the company's CA World conference in Las Vegas. During his speech and at an earlier press conference, Kumar said Oracle's hostile takeover bid for PeopleSoft and EMC Corp.'s $1.3 billion acquisition of Legato Systems last week are evidence that the number of software suppliers will shrink. "There are way too many products from too many vendors," he said. "The middle of the pack is a very difficult place to exist."

To capitalize on its broad product line, CA is trying to improve its software quality, product support, and licensing terms, Kumar said. At the beginning of his speech, Kumar reassured audience members that the Vegas hotel's shark tank wasn't home to CA's sales office. "We've changed, I promise you," he said.

CA customer satisfaction reps made 98,000 user site visits last year, and the company is investing in developing products that address market trends of pooled storage, Internet-delivered phone calls and video conferencing, wireless data access, use of Web services, and software that runs on the Linux operating system. CA this year plans to go live with a program called "support connect" that would let customers look for answers to technical support issues by accessing the same database of information used by CA support staff.

Kumar acknowledged that CA's management needs to focus on issues important to its customers, even as the company's accounting is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department. Says Kumar: "The worst thing that could happen is we get distracted by a government investigation of historic issues."