Integration Key in CA’s Approach to Change Management

CA says it has developed a change management product family the integrated whole of which is much greater than the sum of its parts

When Computer Associates International Inc. (CA) purchased the former Niku Corp. last January, it announced plans to weave Niku’s Clarity IT-MG software into the fabric of its existing help desk (CA Unicenter Service Desk) and change management (CA Harvest Change Manager) solutions to offer customers an integrated—or at least nominally integrated—change management offering.

CA closed its Niku acquisition in August. This week, CA officials are touting what they describe as the first fruits of the Niku acquisition—in this case, the integration of Niku’s Clarity portfolio and project management assets with its existing service desk and software lifecycle management solution stack.

The result, claims Jose Mora, director of Clarity marketing for CA, is gestalt: a change management product family the integrated whole of which is greater than the sum of its parts. “All of these solutions exist today. They’re individual solutions. But IT continues to work in these silos. The applications are silo-ed. The individuals are silo-ed. The groups are silo-ed. The asset manager doesn’t know what the groups are working on, for example,” he argues. “Part of what we’re hearing from the market place is that we need better integration between these [traditionally] silo-ed [practices]. Now that these solutions [Unicenter Service Desk and Harvest] have a strong portfolio project management solution to hinge against, it’s going to really transform the way IT is working.”

CA’s competitors in the change management market—a space teeming with players, including BMC Software Corp., IBM Corp., and Mercury Technology Optimization, among others—will undoubtedly take issue with CA’s claim of unprecedented gestalt-ness. There’s a sense, however, in which CA’s strategy—punctuated in a sense by the $350 million in cash it plunked down early last year for Niku—helps underscore (if not sanction) the central importance of the unified change management stack. These technology areas have traditionally been silo-ed, and it wasn’t until relatively recently that CA and other companies started thinking seriously about integrating and extending them.

Mora says CA’s integrated change management suite is consistent with its self-described dramatic renewal of purpose—i.e., its decision to focus on its core IT security and systems management competencies. “This really supports CA’s vision of a unified and simplified IT management processes. In the area of what Clarity falls under, which is the business service optimization division, one of the key areas for improvement is that of the change lifecycle. We feel there’s a great opportunity there to really improve the way organizations can manage, control, and have visibility into these processes,” he comments.

The bogeyman, Mora says, is silo-ing. It isn’t that the service desk, project and portfolio management, and software lifecycle management disciplines need to be integrated with one another, it’s rather a question of why shouldn’t they be—especially if (as seems likely) obvious benefits will accrue from doing so. What’s more, CA and other vendors even have a blueprint for integration and interoperability: the hyper-connected service-oriented architecture (SOA).

“Most of the systems [customers] have today are disconnected. So the overall cost of change is unknown, and it’s critical that they get that under control,” Mora argues. “Before CA acquired Clarity, one of the areas that was sort of a missing link was how do you manage these individual silos [the service desk and the software lifecycle] as a kind of holistic view. Most of the other vendors didn’t have holistic solutions, so there were still these [separate] elements or processes used in change management. As a result, business and IT leaders have had limited visibility into this information. There’s a loss of control, or of reduced control, and that in turn opens up the door for the introduction of errors.”

CA’s all-in-one change management suite became generally available earlier this month. It won’t be until the end of May, however, that flagship customers start deploying all-in-one solutions. The Virginia Farm Bureau, for example, has already replaced Microsoft Corp.’s Project, Systems Management Server (SMS) and Visual Source Safe with CA’s trifecta. Ditto for an unnamed company that CA describes as a “retail grocer and [the] eighth-largest privately-held company in the nation.” In both cases, Mora claims, customers expect to realize additional value by virtue of the linkages and automation CA has built into its Clarity, Service Desk, and Harvest products.

In the integrated model, says Mora, compliant applications automatically generate error reports with Unicenter Service Desk (via CA’s embedded Service Aware control). Back at Service Desk, a support analyst reviews the incidents that have been reported against an application or applications. If need be, Service Desk can combine multiple instances into a single Problem. Problems are in turn resolved through Requests for Change . At this point, the Change Request creates a Project or Task in the Clarity environment. Meanwhile, in the Harvest Environment, a package is created to manage the RFC request. From that point, the development lifecycle is controlled by workflow, says Mora. As code moves from development to test to production, Clarity and Service Desk are automatically updated. “You’ve got this entirely seamless process that’s taking place, with information that’s very complex, but because it’ integrated, the information doesn’t have to be manually changed,” he concludes.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.