CA 'coach' talks field tactics
CA country manager Stuart Preston tells Amanda Sachtleben about the company's global transformation and his toughest competitors in sport.
What’s your background in the industry?
I’ve been in the IT industry 15 years, working at NCR, Sequent Computer Systems — which was bought by IBM, and then CA, mainly in sales and some marketing roles. I’ve mostly been based in Wellington although I spent a couple of years in Auckland for NCR. I started at CA in July 2002, and prior to being country manager I was a sales exec working on government and commercial accounts.
What differences have you found between the Wellington and Auckland markets CA has offices in?
Wellington is dominated by government accounts and you have to spend the time and get to know people. It’s different from Auckland, where there is a far larger range of medium and smaller enterprises. Wellington has a smaller number of large enterprises. I divide my time between both and we hire senior people that don’t need a lot of hand-holding. It’s really left up to the individuals within guidelines of what we want to achieve.
How do you bring your sales experience to bear in your current role?
One of the key things is focusing on the customer, and in the last four years that’s been big for CA as it looks to transition itself.
CA has made a number of acquisitions and had its well-known accounting scandal in which former CEO Sanjay Kumar and his New Zealand-born head of worldwide sales, Stephen Richards, have both since pleaded guilty to fraud charges. Do you think CA is completely over Computer Associates’ past problems of and is the new name sticking?
I wasn’t around at CA in the 1990s but it acquired a number of competitors and it would have been the politics of bringing those similar-size organisations together and managing that cultural shift. It’s really changed since around 2000 and 2001. I think the industry as a whole has matured and CA has focused on customer satisfaction as one of its core values. It’s also focused on the channel. We lead the world in that, as over half our revenue comes from channel partners. CA has had a reputation for being difficult to deal with in the past and I think we’ve really worked hard on overcoming that. I think we’re leading CA internationally — we’ve had a good result locally for the last financial year and that’s a reflection on the work that’s gone on. We need to continue that.
We’re also going through quite a transformation at the moment. Stephen and Sanjay left the company in 2002 and from a New Zealand point of view, with Stephen being a Kiwi, it was a great story to tell because of the fall from grace. But the transformation is a great opportunity for CA, which is why I’m here. There may be other ups and downs along the way but overall I think we’re heading in the right direction. CA has moved on from that.
Do you have a growing solutions orientation?
We do, but that won’t be CA only, it will very much involve partners. We don’t have the head count to do it on our own. Our traditional partners are the likes of Datacom, Fujitsu and Gen-i, and we have newer partners such as Eagle, Techtonics and SolNet. We are looking for ways to grow in the OEM [original equipment management] business and in the SMB [small to medium business] market.
How do you aim to position New Zealand in CA’s global operation?
Because we’re smaller, we tend to be more of a generalist. We’re early adopters of technology here. A number of the Pacific region management team are Kiwis and there are a number of them throughout CA corporately. We’re recognised as being a good performer in CA.
What are your goals for CA’s channel business?
To get partners into email archiving now that we’ve brought on Message Manager, portfolio management, and the security and threat management area. We’ve brought to market new products that people can build their business around. We’re also opening up the entire CA product range to those resellers that have the bandwidth and wherewithal to do that.
We also want to pick up on the SMB space but I’ll leave that to George Hladilo, who runs the channel. That channel business has grown 20 to 25% for the last three years year on year, so that’s a great reflection on the work George has done and continues to do.
What aspects of being country manager do you enjoy?
As a salesperson, I still enjoy being in front of the customer and getting out of the office. I’m also enjoying the challenge of giving a comment on what we should be doing. It’s different when you’ve got the full picture to consider.
What do you do during time away from the hectic commuting schedule?
I certainly don’t enjoy the flying and the early morning flights, but it’s great to come and spend time in Auckland with a different range of clients. It’s a bit of a challenge on the family. I have two children aged six and nine — but I can still beat them at sport and I hope that will continue for some time! I play and coach hockey; I’ve basically played all my life and never broke away. Now the kids are playing so I coach them.