As Computer Associates International (CA) heads into its annual CA World user conference in two weeks, it faces serious user concerns about the soundness of the company and its leadership.

After witnessing the company's acknowledgement of accounting improprieties and the ousting of Sanjay Kumar from his position as CEO, users said CA officials must now reassure them that the company will be able to maintain its newfound focus on customer support.

"I want to know if CA will continue to have the same customer-oriented policy," said Mike Stevenson, enterprise administrator for Peel Regional Police in Brampton, Ontario. Recent leadership changes and financial disclosures are "more important than any technology CA announces, because they mean the organisation won't be as focused (on customers) as before."

Mark Barrenechea, CA's senior vice president of product development, acknowledged last week that CA World attendees will want to be reassured about the Islandia, N.Y.-based company's financial health. "Certainly, I think the top issue will be the state of the company, (which is) top of mind for everyone and a fair question," he said.

Tough issues
Interim CEO Kenneth Cron will deliver the opening keynote at the conference in place of Kumar. Cron "brings a lot of maturity . . . a lot of stability . . . understands the macro aspects of the marketplace and is providing fantastic interim leadership for us," Barrenechea said. "(He will) be speaking very directly about the company" at CA World.

And Cron will have some tough issues to speak about. CA announced last week that it had to delay its financial report on its just-ended fourth quarter and revise its revenue calculations for its second and third quarters. That development followed on the heels of former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's decision to cancel her appearance as a guest speaker, for which she cited personal reasons.

Discussing other plans for CA World, Barrenechea said the company will announce an initiative to significantly expand the horizontal integration of management functions across its four main product lines: eTrust security, BrightStor storage, Unicenter operations management and AllFusion application life-cycle management.

Kenneth McCardle, assistant vice president of information systems at Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Co. in Ridgeland, Miss., said the integration work is sorely needed. "Sometimes CA products don't integrate well together," including products within the Unicenter line, he said.

Chris Poole, president of the Florida CA Users Group and a senior analyst at Convergys Corp. in Jacksonville, also welcomed the integration initiative. "I need (management software) to look at the application layer and not the hardware," he said.

CA World will be held in Las Vegas on May 23-27.

CA's Barrenechea explains offshore strategy
Mark Barrenechea, Computer Associates International Inc.'s (CA's) senior vice president of product development, spoke with Computerworld last week about an offshore strategy that calls for spending a growing percentage of CA's development dollars on programmers in China and India. Barrenechea stressed that this is being accomplished without sacrificing U.S. developer jobs. Excerpts from the interview follow:
How much of your development work is done offshore?
We're going to put our corporate dollars in emerging markets. It's a natural thing to do. We have a big presence in Australia; we have a growing presence in Hyderabad, India; a growing presence in Hong Kong and Beijing; a growing presence in Eastern Europe.
Are those developer positions ones that are currently in the U.S. that are being moved overseas?
No. We are expanding our R&D efforts by supplementing them with labour in markets that are growing and emerging for us. We have not replaced jobs in the U.S. with overseas jobs. As we get more efficient in what we do, we do free up dollars that we can reinvest.

Will developers in India and China constitute a growing percentage of your software development workforce?
Yes.

You have a set amount of money you can pay for developers. Is it accurate to say that the percentage of that money going to foreign developers is rising?
Yes. It's the same for all software companies. It's true for CA, it's true for the industry.

What does that curve look like - that increasing curve of money being shifted to overseas developers?
The way that I think it's most appropriate to have the dialogue is to say that I'm going to put our investment into the markets that are emerging. For me, it's not cost optimisation, although there is a benefit to that. It is investing in markets that are growing.

Are there developers at CA who can legitimately complain that they're losing their jobs to workers in China and India?
I think most developers I talk to welcome the concept. Because at the end of the day, they want to compete, and they want to win, and they want to provide value in what they do. And if we can give them more skilled programmers to get it done, they're happy to work in this model.

But that skirts the question. Are there or are there not U.S. developers at CA who are losing their jobs to overseas developers?
My answer is no. That is not the approach we're taking.