CAs Kumar Works To Keep the Peace Between GPS, VARs

By T.C. Doyle & Arthur H. Germain III New Orleans 7:37 PM EST Mon., July 19, 1999 -- As Computer Associates International Inc.'s Global Professional Services (GPS) business unit grows, so do complaints about it from third parties aligned with the software giant.

Here at CA World, the Islandia, N.Y., company's annual conference for customers and business partners, VARs and other channel companies are venting their frustration with the fast-growing business unit. Their gripe: CA is now competing with channel companies for more of the lucrative services sales third parties believed was theirs for the taking.

One VAR attending the event expressed concern that CA is encroaching on their turf. Said the VAR on condition of anonymity, "I used to be able to subcontract for CA. But now I cannot because it just puts my company at odds with them."

To quell fears that the company is trying to undermine the very partners that it has worked hard to cultivate, CA president and COO Sanjay Kumar took time following a Monday reseller awards event to address the issue head-on.

"To be candid, in some cases, GPS is going to be a friend and in some cases it's going to be a foe," he says, adding the mission of GPS is to help deploy products faster within enterprise organizations. However, Kumar is not wedded to the idea that GPS must take the lead in customer engagements. "I'm not hung up on us doing the work; I'm hung up on customers coming to us to have it done," he added.

The services business unit, which has grown to more than 4,000 professionals from just 300 only 15 months ago, has no set rules as to which engagements it will pursue. It does have basic guidelines that it operates under. For example, GPS focuses on engagements involving enterprise management, applications services, packaged-software implementations, e-business, knowledge management and visualization solutions. But it will pursue customers of all sizes, says Jim Holt, senior vice president of the GPS business unit at CA.

"We generally try to follow named accounts but try to react to all of the many opportunities out there," he says. Long term, he believes there is simply too much business for CA and its VARs to fight over.

Some VARs at the CA World event, which runs through Thursday, downplayed the controversy. Yes, certain tensions exist in the channel, they concede. But it's hand and glove to the fundamental changes under way at CA.

"CA used to hand out everything before it had a professional services group," says Chris Russell, president of Integrated Concepts Inc. (ICI), Addison, Texas. "But now you have to play in the world where it wants some things for itself. That's OK if you're on the ball in your market."

ICI, which has been doing business with CA for more than a decade, was named as the Total Solutions Provider of the Year at CA World, the third consecutive year the company has won the honor. For Russell, CA remains his company's most important partner. "It's dedicated to helping me succeed. So long as that's the case, then that's a partner for me."

To that end, Kumar suggests that the GPS business, which is responsible for its own P&L, is evolving. "Over time, more of our direct resources will be dedicated to fewer customers. That makes our channel strategy even more important," he says. That strategy--whereby GPS will work with channel partners in customer engagements--may also include some level of product development.

"GPS will be able to take other products from other vendors and build a 'thinfrastructure' for channel partners to build solutions on," Kumar added.

Kumar also discussed other initiatives under consideration at the company during the reseller event. One idea: e-support, a new way to provide technology and diagnostic information to channel partners via the Web. In addition, Kumar hinted that the company may soon deliver more software updates and fixes via the Web, too. That could include using push technology to deliver electronic keys that can unlock data on encrypted CDs.