Canadian exec takes top spot at CA

Computer Associates on Tuesday said it would put its recent accounting scandals behind it by hiring the Canadian executive who grew IBM‘s middleware division as chief executive.

For the first time in its corporate history, CA went outside the company to recruit John Swainson, formerly the vice-president of Big Blue’s software sales force. CA said Swainson would be working in tandem over a four-month transition period with interim CEO Ken Cron. Cron took over the firm earlier this year after Sanjay Kumar stepped down in May as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigated allegations that he and other former CA executives extended reporting periods improperly in order to meet financial expectations.

Swainson, 50, earned a degree in engineering from the University of British Columbia and joined IBM in 1978. He later took on a number of roles at the firm, including a stint running its Toronto lab and getting involved with IBM’s sponsorship of the ACM World finals programming championships. He is probably best known, however, for his role as general manager of application and integration middleware, where he lead a strategy that geared WebSphere products to help IT managers prepare for Web services.

In a Webcast announcing his appointment, Swainson said he intends to build on CA’s product roadmap of developing software that helps manage key areas of the enterprise, such as data, security and storage.

“”Basically, our strategy is going to be to grow this business in things that we’re strong in,”” he said. “”We’ll do that organically, as well as through acquisition as we see things that look interesting.””

Cron, who will continue to sit on CA’s board, said he will focus on the day-to-day responsibilities of running the company while Swainson gets up to speed and develops his vision for the firm. Jeff Clarke will continue in his role as COO.

“”We wanted to give John the best chance to succeed,”” said Lewis Ranieri, CA’s chairman. “”We have two great resources — Jeff and Ken — why not use them to augment change?””

Cron said Swainson’s appointment will help in refocusing the industry’s attention on CA’s product line, rather than its financial woes.

“”The final element of uncertainty has been eliminated,”” he said.

Swainson said he knew there would be obstacles ahead of him.

“”On the downside, there’s clearly a legacy of difficult customer relations. That’s something I know a lot about from my jobs at IBM,”” he said. “”I will be working to turn our customers back into partners rather than adversaries.””

Rather than launch a middleware product like WebSphere at CA, Swainson said he would partner with his former employer, along with others such as Oracle and Sun. Those firm’s efforts to integrate various parts of the IT department will increase the need for CA’s management suite, he said.

“”As IBM executes (its) on-demand (strategy), as other companies execute on what they want to do, the need for what we do goes up,”” he said.

In the months since Kumar stepped down, CA has continued acquiring other firms, most recently security specialist Netegrity. While he said he doesn’t want to see opportunities pass CA, Swainson said buying up smaller firms will not be the only way the company rejuvenates itself.

“”This isn’t a holding company that buys software products and sort of manages them,”” he said. “”We have 5,000 engineers. We spend a lot of money on software development, and we intend to realize the advantage of being able to build our own products.””

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