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CIO Leadership Series: Stephen Savage takes the reins at CA

When Stephen Savage became SVP and CIO of CA, the world's fifth largest software company, he was carrying on a company-wide movement that seeks to simplify operations and place business needs at the forefront of the IT organization.

Savage stepped into the CIO role on October 1 after a career with CA that, in various positions, has focused on business strategy, process and compliance, building on a background in sales. With the philosophy "be very careful in what you promise, and quick to deliver," he is now tasked with delivering on the need for increased business-IT integration.

He said his overall strategy for IT is focused on better usage of business information, business process efficiency, and being a showcase for CA technology. All of this is in the context of a large transformation for CA, which provides IT management software and services to enterprises.

"Our transformation story is one of integration, simplification and some level of uniformity," Savage said.

"We've recognized as a company that we've been more IT-centric than business-centric in what our IT department provided," he said. "We were founded by developers, we're run by developers, and this is a situation where we're saying the business needs to be out in front."
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That transformation affects a $3.9 billion organization with 14,500 employees in 45 countries. About 550 work in the IT, or global information systems, department. The operational IT budget in 2007 was $134 million, according to the department's annual report.

Managing ideas and innovation

Being a software company gives CA a level of integration between IT and product development not found elsewhere. CA's R&D department spans several business units and includes more than 5,300 developers, but IT is heavily involved as both first customer and development aid.

Not only does CA internally use approximately 120 of its own products, but IT is frequently a part of the development process in alpha and beta product stages.

"Some of the ideas have their inception within our IT department," Savage said.

Internally, the R&D department is making use of a corporate wiki to manage ideas. Within the IT department, the management of ideas for changes or new services takes a structured approach based on business-IT alignment.

"We have a very defined governance process for the collection of ideas and the management of ideas through to development," Savage said. Within CA, a group of business-process owners and points of contact in specific parts of the business gather together to share needs and ideas. These ideas become the responsibility of a business relationship manager who aggregates and prioritizes them and resolves conflicts.

Despite its ready access to new technology, the CA IT department has probably just as many legacy systems as other organizations, Savage said. "What's unique about us is so much of our legacy is built on our technology," he said.

Efficiency

Reports about rising and falling IT budgets and CEO attitudes has left some CIOs looking for a weather vane. Savage says that from his perspective, IT spend is likely to rise because of increased business demand for services.

"It's a hard thing to say you're overall going to reduce your cost when there's this other demand on you to help find more customers... or mine more information," he said.

Those services are projected to lead to longer-term efficiencies. For example, a new ERP system allowed CA to standardize process across global divisions, so that business process execution looks the same in Asia as it does in the United States or Germany, barring compliance and regulatory issues.

To tie IT spend to revenue growth and customer focus, Savage points to a recent Salesforce.com implementation, and to the use of self-service customer portals.

Telework and mobility

Approximately 30 percent of CA's employees spend at least some time teleworking, Savage said, though the number of people who primarily work remotely is lower.

Through the company's deployment processes, a home worker has the same capabilities as an office worker. And that deployment process has recently been upgraded - according to CA's 2007 global information systems annual report, the time required to bring a new desktop online (overall, not specifically for telework) was reduced from 45 minutes to a minute, which made it easier to absorb nearly 400 employees from four acquisitions during the year.

The company is also a heavy user of mobile devices, along with a variety of internal management systems. Savage does not discuss internal security, but said mobile device security and management has to be a compromise, and the debate over how much free rein to give users is ongoing.

"People love their devices, and add functionality that's not necessarily supported," he said. "There's got to be a level of responsibility on the part of the user. To take that responsibility away opens the door for misconduct."

Adoption

As many an IT shop has found out, technology does little good if people do not use it. As with other parts of its business, CA has a defined process for adoption. A business readiness organization manages the relationship between IT and business users when introducing new or changed services, from getting users ready to dealing with post-implementation problems. A combination of instructor-led training, booklets, and training web sites helps internal customers through the adoption of new technology.

While CA's adoption process is not publicly showcased like its deployment of its software, Savage said lessons learned internally could be applied elsewhere as well: "We've adopted an attitude that whatever works that we're doing internally, we want to be transparent to our customers."

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