Last week’s appointment of John Swainson as CEO-elect of Computer Associates International Inc will help strengthen the role of the channel in its strategy, says a Canadian company executive.

Chris Devlin, vice-president of channel sales at CA Canada, said in an interview that Swainson has

already looked at how CA Canada is managing its enterprise solution providers (ESPs).

“John really likes what we’re doing in terms of getting partners in the gates at every level of business and becoming part of our route to market,” said Devlin, who returned home this summer from Britain after being re-appointed to his current role in April. For the last four years, Devlin served as general manager of indirect sales in Europe, the Middle Eastand Africa (EMEA) at CA.

CA Canada is working to “engineer” value-added partners, or what it calls ESPs, into the management software vendor’s go-to-market strategy, said Devlin. Direct sales reps go to a partner they knowhas skills in security or storage compliance, for example, offering a customer a complete solution instead of just selling a software license.

Devlin was pleased with Swainson’s appointment.

“If you’re publicly out there with a vacant CEOposition, people wonder when it’s going to be filled,” said Devlin.”To fill it with someone of John’s calibre — he’s got channel experience, software experience, big company experience and has a Canadiandegree as well.”

Swainson, 50, who holds a bachelor of applied science inengineering from the University of British Columbia, started his 26-year careerat IBM in Vancouver. He most recently served as vice-president of worldwidesales for IBM’s software group and is probably best known for the success ofthe IBM WebSphere product.

Swainson will be working alongside interim CEO Kenneth Cronin a four- to six-month transition period. Cron came to CA earlier this yearafter former CEO Sanjay Kumar stepped down in May during an investigation ofallegations of federal securities fraud by the U.S. Securities and ExchangeCommission. Kumar appeared in court last month for his arraignment where hepleaded not guilty to several charges in the multi-billion dollar accountingscandal that has plagued CA for the majority of 2004.

But Devlin hopes Swainson and other new blood, including Jeff Clarke, who was appointed chief operating officer and chief financial officer in April, will give the company some closure to a dark period in its28-year history.

“It’s a great beginning to a chapter that was very public,” said Devlin. “You’re living in a fish bowl.”

Accounting scandal aside, many channel partners here are, for the most part, satisfied with how CA Canada balances its direct and indirect sales forces. But last month’s announcement that the company opened an online store to sell mostly commodity products such as anti-spam and anti-virussoftware direct to the SMB market, had one longtime VAR initially concerned.

Patrick Power, managing partner of sales and marketing at Toronto-based OAM Computer Group, said he e-mailed Devlin the link to an article he read about the store, asking him what’s going on.

“I said, ‘This doesn’t look good,'” said Power. But Devlin reassured him the Web site is designed to give customers information, and is targeted at low-end clients buying products that don’trequire service or integration work. “Obviously when any one of my key partners adds something to their direct portfolio it concerns me as a reseller,” Power said.

In addition to a Web presence, Devlin said starting in January CA will sell English and French versions of its security products such as eTrust and Pest Patrol at Canadian retail locations to compete with Symantecand McAfee in the consumer space. CA already distributes similar products through the retail chain in the U.S.

While Power keeps an eye on his vendor partners and what they are doing with their direct business, he’s not concerned about CA’s retail presence here.

“A lot of this stuff is being driven by the consumer anti-virus marketplace,” he said. “Security is permeating itself down to the consumer user. People are savvy and aware of spyware and anti-virus much more than they were two years ago.”

CA has other problems with resellers. One partner stopped dealing with CA earlier this year before it sold its Accpac division to Best Software Inc., citing pricey software licenses and hard-to-attain certificationrequirements.

“If you’ve been a dedicated Accpac partner in the past and suddenly they just changed the pricing through the roof, you just have toswitch,” said Jim Bains, president and CEO of London, Ont.-based Microcad Computer Corp.

Although Microcad continues to offer CA’s products, Bains’s relationship with the vendor has dwindled. “It seems to be difficult to work with them,” said Bains. “It has been (difficult) in the past andI feel that it’s going to be the same still.” Bains, however, added that after seeing CA officials at a recent Ingram Micro road show he’s thinkingabout giving it another chance.

But John Kadianos, executive vice-president of Richmond Hill, Ont.-based Infostream Technologies Inc., which was acquired by Bell Canada in June, said he prefers the certification process for VARs to bedemanding.

“I look at programs like (other tier one vendors) where they have 5,000 resellers who are all certified,” said Kadianos.”Making the process onerous means there are a number of individuals who are willing to make the investment will end up being the best partners.”

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