Our German colleagues interview Mike Gregoire, CA Technologies’ new CEO who refers to himself as “the crazy guy from California”
Mike Gregoire became the CEO of CA Technologies in January, following a few turbulent years in which all the top staff were reshuffled. He has 25 years of experience in IT, in companies such as EDS, Taleo and PeopleSoft. Our colleagues from silicon.de were among the first to talk to the head of one of the largest independent software corporations in the world about its future.
You have been with CA about four month now, what do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of the company?
There is a lot of strength, and there are a few areas where I am sure we can improve. Our strength is we have absolutely fantastic customer relationships. I have talked to literally hundreds of customers in the last four months, and I came into the job thinking that there will be more tension between the company and customers. They want CA, they trust CA to run their applications and security in infrastructure, mainframe, and distributed computing.
As for the areas we can improve: we are a company that has been in business for 37 years, so we carry a little extra weight. We need to go on a diet, get to the gym and work out a little bit, sometimes we are a little bit too heavy and slow. If you want to be the best software engineering company, you have to be lean, you have to be active, you have to be quick, you have to be agile. I think you see that when products are delivered to the market in a very short period of time.
How do you want to cultivate this start-up culture?
We adopted the agile methodology. We don’t have the grand requirement definition sessions. We are doing internal development, getting really engaged with our customers, understanding their needs and putting that into code, testing it really quickly. We built our own platform for engineering, using the most modern tools, the most cutting edge infrastructure. And then there’s our ability to objectively look on how we do things: are we doing this because that’s how we have always done it, are there better ways of doing things with the help of the cloud?
Does that mean you are going to divest a bunch of stuff that is no longer core?
You know, we are like a clutterbox, we keep everything forever. And if we take a look on our distributed products, you know some of them are around for a number of years and we have some customers running different versions in different parts of their company.
We need to work to get customers onto releases where the innovation is happening. That’s a very difficult thing to do. We will never get a 100 percent uptake, but having the dialogue with the customers and showing that we have a genuine interest in making sure they getting a maximum amount of business value, I think is that kind of partner that we want to be.
In Europe CA is often seen as a US company with European satellite offices. To change this, you started to focus on Europe within the last month. Why did it take you so long to realize the importance of the European market?
Europe wasn’t a target environment for us at Taleo, it was not a target environment for any valley software company. It is a tough place to do business right now. Europe was going through such a difficult economic period, it was hard to get people to make decisions to buy new technology, because there was uncertainty about what is going to happen from quarter to quarter. It seems things have settled down.
Nevertheless, US software companies often concentrate on the UK market – France, Spain, Italy and even economically strong Germany are often left behind.
At the risk of getting myself in trouble: we do very well in Italy and France, we sometimes struggle in the UK. And German market is something we are very interested in. I think that our products will resonate very well in Germany and, as we start moving into Europe, I would like to do more business in Germany.
You talked about organic innovation in your keynote, what does “organic” mean?
It’s the approach that involves building applications from scratch, rather than only using acquisitions as a way to bring new products in our portfolio. We have launched three new products in the last quarter, all of them have been organic. We have augmented that with Nolio and Layer7. So we do a combination of both, but even when buying Nolio and Layer7, we had product roadmaps of what we are going to build to make those products stronger and provide more value.
So we will see less acquisitions under your leadership?
You never know how things might change in a given year. But we have the ability to have as many acquisitions as we need to, and we have the ability to do none. We are going to do what we think make sense.
You talked about moving as many processes as possible to SaaS. How much of the portfolio do you want to move?
Over time, most of the distributed computing will begin to look more like SaaS. I was very careful in my keynote when describing what SaaS is, what cloud is, what a hybrid cloud is, what a private cloud is. Just because you build something in a SaaS architecture does not mean you want to deploy it behind the customer’s firewall. Some costumers prefer not to be in a private cloud or a public cloud. Some of our applications are so network intensive, that it would probably be reckless to try to put them into a private or public cloud. So it’s different horses for different courses.
When I was at Taleo, we have never considered cheaper to be better. The quality of solution you get out of SaaS environment is better than a perpetual license because the responsibility and the pressure to make a good release is so high. I feel it is a great time for CA to be stepping up and leading in this area rather than being passive.
There is the mainframe business on the one side and the SaaS on the other side. How do you fit those two together?
First of all, we are the only company that is still innovating in the mainframe. If you take a look at our Chorus product – nobody is doing anything like that. I do not think people understand how market-changing that particular product is. You can bring a whole new generation of technologists into the mainframe environment because they would be doing the same things they did in computer science school on a Linux machine. You understand the concept – there is big hunk of iron behind the wall you would have never got to see.
Do you plan more cooperations with universities to get more young mainframe experts?
We have done a number of things in Europe. In Prague, we have got a big mainframe development center doing a fabulous job. And we also have a number of people in Islandia near New York, and in Boston too. They are willing to work on this types of projects, coding in Java. Whether it gets deployed on the mainframe or gets deployed on a Linux machine is not relevant to them.
How do you see CA changing in a year from now, what will be the most obvious differences throughout the company?
The innovation of our products. We are on a big and steep innovation curve. We have got the money, we have got the talent, there is definitely a demand and we have the intellectual property. I think we can be one of the most important names in managing the cloud.
There was a sense until now, that CA is a conservative company, solid and reliable – is there any risk with the SaaS and Cloud offerings?
(Laughs) Crazy guy from California is going to ruin the company! No, I am just kidding. I would look at it as bringing in innovation and modern engineering skills rather than doing anything disruptive. It is really about finding ways to make our customers more successful, faster.
Sybille Gastner writes for Silicon.de, and took part in an interview at CA World in Las Vegas. Additional reporting by Max Smolaks.
Test your CEO leadership knowledge! Take our quiz!