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CA Technologies CTO: We’ve Had To Adapt To Stay Relevant

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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CA WORLD 2017: CA Technologies UK CTO Rob Coleman explains the shift at the company and why its accelerator programme epitomises the changes

CA Technologies is an enterprise software firm with a legacy that dates back to 1976 yet it continues to be relevant in the IT landscape of 2017.

Over the past few years it has refocused on supporting customers bid to become more agile so they can compete with young upstarts like Uber and Airbnb that are disrupting entire industries overnight.

By identifying the qualities that make it easy for startups to have such an impact, it hopes to help businesses of all sizes achieve the same effect.

Since he assumed the top job five years ago, Mike Gregoire has tasked CA with building ‘The Modern Software Factory’ and none of this is more obvious than the company’s commitment to DevOps – the marriage of development and operations teams.

CA World 2017 1

Changing role of IT

This year’s conference has seen more than 20 new products and announcements – the most in CA’s recent history – focusing on areas ranging from automation and analytics to customer experience and security.

Rob Coleman, CA’s UK CTO, joined the company from in 2008 “to see what it was like working for a software company” and has witnessed this transition first hand. His career in IT spans 27 years and has also seen him take up roles at IBM and working in IT at manufacturing firms – giving him experience of working on both sides of the divide.

“Since Mike [Gregoire] became our CEO five years ago, he’s really transformed the company,” Coleman told Silicon. “Before that we operated in a very expected way for a large independent software vendor. Mike was a completely different CEO. His background was, yes, in enterprise software, but also in building a SaaS business from the ground up.

“Like any organisation if you don’t adopt technology to keep your customers happy then you’re not going to be around for too long.

“[The technological shift] became obvious about 7-8 years ago when the dreaded term ‘the cloud’ became propagated before anyone had an idea what it was. There were a few poster boys like Salesforce, who started in 1999, but it was clear from me as a technologist what was likely to happen was that consumers and organisations were likely to want to consume services and software differently before.”

“We still have a large mainframe base, which is still hugely important to us, but if we were to grow as a company, we had to embrace the change.”

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Startup Accelerator

CA isn’t just keen on its customers acting like startups, but it wants to act like one itself. The launch of the CA Accelerator programme invites employees to pitch their ideas to the company in exchange for support and finance.

Applicants submit their idea, which is then sent to the Accelerator team for review. This team helps refine the idea so it can be pitched in a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style scenario – a format that just about every tech firm claims to love.

“The Accelerator is open to every CA employee who thinks they have an idea,” Coleman explained. “It’s very much a startup within CA.

“If you succeed you get seed funding from CA and the [successful applicant] becomes effectively the CEO and co-founder. They get 12 months off their job and their role is kept open should their idea not come to fruition.”

CA of course takes a vested interest in the venture and there is an acceptance that not all ideas are going to make the company millions of pounds. So far, there have been 14 successful submissions to the Accelerator, of which three have failed.

Rob Coleman CA UK CTO

Success stories

At present there are 10 active projects, the tenth of which was announced at CA World itself. FreshTracks.io is a monitoring platform for containerised applications that is built on open source technology and uses machine learning techniques. Coleman said traditional tools fall short when it comes to managing containers, especially with Kubernetes.

The final successful application has actually been taken on by CA itself, which is seen as the ultimate customer. Jarvis (named after Tony Stark’s personal assistant in Iron Man) is an analytics platform, based on Open APIs, that will be deployed across CA’s product portfolio.

Sometimes things are too good to share.

However the CA Accelerator is being opened up to applicants outside the company for the first time. US based developers with ideas on how to improve the Federal Government with open source software are being invited to apply.

Each project will be judged on citizen value, the potential (positive) impact on government efficiency, market opportunity, creativity and differentiation and the likelihood of long term success..

The winner will receive up to $75,000 and access to the CA Accelerator Boot Camp.

Coleman said that CA would still make an acquisition if it was unable to build something quick enough, but everything was geared towards making software that helps customers bridge the technological shift it has identified.

“It is business transformation that happens to be powered by software,” he said. “There’s nothing that we do in the world today that isn’t powered by it. It’s about knowing who my customer is, what they want, and building that quickly but at high quality and including them in that process.”

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