CA's recent restructuring of its communications function has enabled the company to more effectively support overall PR and business goals.
Former Computer Associates CEO Sanjay Kumar became a household name for all the wrong reasons. After ending his four-year tenure as CEO of the IT management software maker, which changed its name to CA in 2006, he was sentenced to jail and fined millions of dollars for his role in a major accounting scandal at the company.
Kumar's actions not only impacted the Islandia, NY-based company's corporate reputation, but they also handcuffed its PR strategy for years after his exit.
Until a recent restructuring, CA had different communications divisions for government, media, and employee relations, and all other prominent PR functions.
While the strategy was successful in responding to the crushes of media attention that followed, it made media outreach for positive stories a nearly impossible task, says Bill Hughes, SVP of global corporate communications, who joined CA in 2006.
"It was a very disciplined kind of approach," he adds. "If you wanted to do a press release, you went to this guy. If you wanted to do employee communications, you went to another person. There was no overlap among the teams. It was a pretty tough time in CA's history, so we had a communications structure that was designed to protect the reputation of [CA]. It was [created for] basically taking on questions as opposed to reaching out."
Looking past the negative
Hughes, who describes CA as "a company that was dying," used the structure successfully to manage incoming media requests and keep track of coverage - most of it negative at the time - about the company. However, as coverage of the scandals began to fade, management realized the communications group had to do more than respond to negative media attention, says Bill Warren, SVP of executive communications and public affairs.
"There was a great focus on doing corporate reputation at CA. That was natural because of the issues the company had gone through, but we reached a point where the issues were behind us," he says. "We started to talk as a communications staff about how to be more proactive and take our message to the market, as well as how we could get that message out in a clear fashion because we no longer had fires to put out on a [daily] basis."
CA's management also sought to create greater accountability, as well as clearly defined roles and responsibilities, among communications units. As such, earlier this year the company announced a new communications structure, which assigned leaders, all of whom report to Hughes, to certain business units. The move followed a 2007 restructuring of business units. Warren, for example, is communications leader for the Enterprise IT Management (EITM) unit, and works closely with Ajei Gopal, EVP of the group.
Warren, therefore, is responsible for all of the EITM unit's communications activities - from internal to external PR - and is included in business meetings and strategy, says Gopal.
"[Warren] is the point person to work across all aspects of communications. Whether it's corporate communications, internal work, or press releases, [Warren] is my go-to guy, and he's part of my staff for all practical purposes," he adds. "He's able to bring in the right levels of resources and set the context for what needs to be done in a way that couldn't be done before."
Other communications leaders report to several business units, such as Dan Kaferle, SVP of communications. He oversees a team supporting the Mainframe business unit and Al Nugent, the CTO.
The close bonds between the business units and their communications teams have also helped CA's management understand the communications process, says Donald Friedman, EVP and CMO.
"I can't imagine not doing that." he says. "The first [benefit] is that the business units feel more empowered."
Bob Feldman, CEO of Feldman & Partners, a corporate consultancy that worked with CA on the reorganization, says he stressed strategy and accountability in the process.
"[Hughes'] new structure really enables much more strategic thinking," he adds. "People can demonstrate much more of their talents and collectively raise the bar."
Hughes also created three councils, focused on leadership, media, and employee communications, to assist in CA's global communications strategy. In addition to advising the company's communications pros, the councils also create a sense of teamwork and camaraderie among the 55 PR employees globally and ensure that business units are not overlapping in unit-specific messages, adds Warren.
"It helps me help the other guys to understand that they have to make sure we're not stepping on a message that [CA] might be rolling out somewhere else," he explains. "It helps to ensure that we're a much more open organization than we were before. I think that this gives someone in the communications organization more growth opportunities. For me, this is akin to running an entire communications organization... and I think there's a lot more of a feeling than [just] being a cog in a large machine."
The communications structure has also given members of the communications team more input overall, says Hughes.
"It's been tremendous - so far, so great," he says. "And the reason why, is that my senior guys do have a seat at the table and they are becoming trusted advisors. Bill Warren sits in at staff meetings and [Gopal] goes to him for strategic counsel and advice. The fact of the matter is, we have a senior person who can have a strategic conversation with the business unit."
Benefits of CA's comms restructuring
Appropriate resources are devoted to corporate needs
Greater clarity of a unit's responsibilities, as well as increased accountability
Communications teams at CA are more business-savvy than they were during earlier structures
Upper management's participation in the reorganization ensures corporate accountability
Greater career growth opportunities for comms pros