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Q&A: CA's newly appointed global sales chief speaks out

Greg Corgan said he's getting few questions from customers about last week's shake-up

By Don Tennant
April 27, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Computer Associates International Inc. yesterday announced that Stephen Richards, who was in charge of CA's global sales team during the period in which contracts were backdated to inflate quarterly earnings, resigned from his post as senior vice president for worldwide sales (see story). Replacing Richards is Greg Corgan, a 24-year IBM veteran who joined CA last year as senior vice president of North American sales. Corgan spoke with Computerworld yesterday about moving into the high-profile job at a turbulent time in the company's history.


What's your biggest challenge stepping into the new job? Letting go of North America. I spent a lot of time with it in the last year. I think we took it a long way -- we had a pretty good year and we gained a lot of momentum.
You're replacing a guy who resigned after having been in the position when the improper accounting activity took place. How difficult do you think your new job will be under the circumstances? I don't think it'll be difficult at all. That was four years ago. We've totally revamped the business model; we have a whole different way of recognizing revenue and accounting for what we do in our business. So that's not even an issue anymore.
So you don't feel like you have a spotlight shining on you? Only [internally] to make numbers. Not from the other [the improper accounting situation].
Did Richards give you any advice before he left? Just the general stuff you would talk about in terms of the organization worldwide and the people there. But he and I talked about the worldwide organization on a regular basis.
Do you expect to take an approach that differs from that of Richards? When I ran North America, Stephen and I were on exactly the same page in terms of what we were putting in place.

Greg Corgan of Computer Associates
Greg Corgan of Computer Associates

What's the most frequently expressed concern you're hearing from CA's customers right now? I've got to tell you, the discussion around this [improper accounting and consequent management reshuffling] stuff from customers is negligible. Up until 10 days ago, in the year I was out here, I never heard anything. In the past 10 days folks have asked what it's all about as more has hit the press. [They've asked:] 'What's really behind the scenes? What do you think the real issues are?' So they ask about that, but they're very brief discussions. I was just on the phone with all my guys out in North America, and the level of noise from the customers is still relatively low.
Do you think there are any lingering pockets of the old CA mind-set in the field or the channel that you need to deal with? Well, I've been out there now for a year, and there always have been some little pockets of the old CA, more from a philosophical mind-set than anything else. I think we've managed to fairly well facelift most of those.
For the ones that have not seen the light, what do you need to do? Those are so minimal -- there aren't that many of them. Mostly it's jawboning and discussions on, 'Look, we put the customer at the center of what we're trying to do. We try and adapt to the business issues and the business processes those customers are dealing with. We try and be as accommodating as possible in terms of mapping into their whole IT business, to the degree we can. That doesn't mean it's been 'yes' to everything, but that's the attitude.
Have you had to replace people for not seeing the light? Very rarely.
What do you think you bring from IBM that will be of greatest benefit to CA and its customers? A sense of account management; a sense of how important it is to build relationships, to understand the customer's business. And as a result of understanding that business, to bring proactive solutions to the table. [CA's] heritage has been one of being product salesmen, as opposed to trying to understand the customer's business and relate technology issues to solving those business problems. That means you build relationships with the customer. That means you spread yourself far and wide within the [customer's organization] to understand what his opportunities are. And by understanding the business nature -- that's why I believe in vertical, industry-focused orientations -- you've got a better chance of bringing solutions to the table. That has always been my approach, and that is how I organized the software business at IBM.
Mark Barrenechea, CA's senior vice president for product development, told me last week that he thinks software is an "afterthought" at IBM (see story). Was that your experience? What he means by that is if you look at the big pieces of the business at IBM, services is a $40 billion business. The hardware business I think is about $28 billion And a $15 billion software business you might put in the "afterthought" category. I did tell him this: While it may be the lowest revenue component of the businesses, it contributes the most profit in that organization.
You report to Jeff Clarke, who was named chief operating officer yesterday. Do you think the fact that CA has been operating without a COO since 2000 when Sanjay Kumar became CEO has hurt the company in any way? Not at all. IBM [for example] doesn't have a COO.
So why does CA need a COO now? Because I think with [interim CEO] Ken [Cron] coming in and he not being as familiar with the business as Sanjay was, having an operational focus as well as a strategic focus makes sense.
Do you expect to work closely with Sanjay in your new position? Yeah. He's very involved with customers, and in the [chief software architect] job he's in now, which I interpret to be making sure that the product and technology direction remains on track -- that it remains as innovative as we're trying to make it, that we make sure we plug all the holes we're trying to [plug] moving forward with our product strategy -- that means staying in touch with a lot of customers and helping a lot of customers. My world is customers, so that's where Sanjay and I come together.
Do you think it would be better for CA to recruit a CEO from inside or outside the company? I don't know.
What do you think are the most important qualities for CA's new CEO to have? For anybody's CEO, leadership is a big piece of it. Being able to put the right team in place and set the right direction and treat the organization as a team, I think, is the No. 1 characteristic in any organization. On top of that, I think having an appreciation for customers -- the importance of customers, and being able to relate the world of technology to those customers -- if you can combine those characteristics, I think you've got a pretty good package.
After IBM and before joining CA, you were president and CEO of OneChem Ltd., an application service provider for the chemical industry. What happened to OneChem? It went belly-up sometime in 2003. It was one of these little dot-com start-ups. It did OK for a while, and then ran out of money like everybody else.
When you go to www.onechem.com, you get a joke notice that says: "This site is for sale. Please send [x amount] to Ralph and Ron in plain, unmarked bills," the amount being a random seven- or eight-figure number that changes every time you go to the site. Those two guys were our lead developers. They're actually really good guys, too. I'd hire them in a minute.



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