CA WORLD - CA's Swainson outlines customer advocate cuts

Computer Associates International Inc. recently began eliminating about 300 customer advocate positions worldwide to transfer accountability for customer problems to its sales representatives, CEO John Swainson said Tuesday at CA World.

The impact of the move appears contradictory to the company's renewed focus on its customers, some CA users said. But Swainson defended the move during a news conference and again later in a short interview.

Swainson also said he was wrong when he said in an interview nearly a year ago that CA has too many products, which several executives have said total more than 1,200. After nearly a year heading up the US$3 billion company, Swainson said it makes sense to concentrate on four major management product areas: storage, security, network and systems management, and a category CA calls Business Service Optimization.

The customer advocate positions that were cut affected about 200 people in the U.S. and another 100 internationally, Swainson said. Nearly all the staffers working in those jobs were reassigned, he said.

The purpose of the move was to 'make the sales reps more accountable,' Swainson said. Customer advocates fulfilled a role he described as something between a sales person and a technical person, but their functions led them to be the main point of contact for many customers, a role Swainson wants sales personnel to fulfill.

Four customers who attended CA World were aware of the change, and two expressed concern that their calls about software problems and related matters would not be answered in person or by anyone they know. The other customers said that support from CA remains good and that the customer advocate changes were made just recently.