Wiping the slate CleAn?

When a company or organization changes its name, you know that its troubles are big. A few days ago Computer Associates made the radical name change to “CA” (I congratulate the brand naming people for their imagination; I imagine their fee was suitable modest). This follows a series of accounting scandals that has accounted for most of the executive team and has its previous CFO pleading guilty to criminal charges and previous CEO Sanjay Kumar now leaving the company. The name change is in a fine tradition of hoping to cover up the past: in the UK we had a nuclear power station called Windscale which had an unfortunately tendency to leak a bit, and a safety reputation that would have troubled Homer Simpson. A swift bit of PR damage control and voila – Sellafield was born. We all felt much safer that day, I can tell you. Of course some name changes are just good sense e..g Nintendo was previously called Marafuku (I kid you not).

However the big question for CA is whether its rebirth will be superficial or deep-rooted. CA was the body-snatcher of the IT industry, picking up ailing companies that had decent technology and maintenance revenues for a song, stripping out most of the costs and milking the maintenance revenue stream. It does have some strong systems management technologies like Unicenter, and is a very large company, with USD 942 million in revenues last quarter. However its famously antagonistic relationships with its customers have not helped as it has had to weather a series of scandals and management changes. Jim Swainson of IBM is the latest person to have the role of turning the company around in his new role as CEO. I wish him luck, as a company with troubles that deep-seated will not be fixed by a PR blitz and a name change.
I hope he has better fortune than PWC did with “Monday”.

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