A lesson CA could teach other vendors

CA knows a thing or two about governance - now they've got a book out on the subject. Even more interesting is how this publication serves to differentiate CA from other firms who speak of governance but can't prove the depth of their competencies.

CA and GRC - CA can prove their competency

Listen in to a typical exchange I have almost weekly with a software vendor or services firm:

Vendor: “But Brian, we are thought leaders, we are innovators, we deliver value to clients, we hire the best and brightest!”

Me: “You say that and I’m sure you believe it. But, show me that these statements are true. Where’s the proof?”

Vendor: “well….. uh….. we have over 41,000 employees and $6 billion in revenue. So, we must be doing something right. Right?”

What too many tech and service firms don’t get when it comes to marketing themselves is that their messages are the same as everyone else’s. They’re undifferentiated and worse, they’re unproven. Can your firm prove it is innovative, value driven, perfect in its execution, etc.? It’s one thing to claim a core competency; it’s an entirely different matter to prove it.

I particularly loathe firms that claim to be innovative when they’re at best a fast follower. These firms let someone else develop a new market concept, product or service. Then, with lightening speed, they copy the solution and deliver it themselves. That’s not innovation, it’s mimicry.

During briefings with vendors and service firms, I ask to see the proof. The other day, I got some.

CA, the Islandia-based software firm, sent me a book their executives wrote. It’s called under control – Goverance Across the Enterprise”. I was expecting this thing to be really light and full of informercial material. You know what? It was pretty good and was only 1% self-promoting. If you didn’t understand governance well, you ought to get this. Each chapter was written by a different CA executive and covers a separate topic. Surprisingly, there’s no overlap in the subjects covered (kudos to their editor) and subjects range from definition aspects of GRC (governance, risk, compliance), role of boards, IT and GRC, IT and PPM, etc.

I was pleasantly surprised that CA had the courage to show their own risk charter and governance principles at the back of the book. A lot of service firms are great at giving advice but often fail to take their own medicine.

My earliest dealings with Computer Associates (now CA) were during the Charles Wang days. After Sanjay and the revenue recognition matters ended, the company re-named itself, got new management, new governance and new business strategies. The DOJ kind of helped those process and personnel changes occur. The new firm doesn’t resemble the old one and I have to remind myself that periodically.

But I digress, the book CA produced is proof that their executives understand governance. In fact, CA may get the concepts in it better than most because of the events that reshaped that company earlier this decade. Customers can take comfort that CA’s people ‘get it’ and know the subject matter. I certainly do now that I can hold a physical manifestation of that knowledge.

The CA book showcases about thirteen of their folks, each with a specific point of view re: governance. Each individual staked out a major subject area and crafted an executive-friendly piece. An editor, I assume, keep the editorial style consistent throughout the book. The result is a fast read that is good for any executive that has a GRC or governance issue in their firm. Will this book provide very detailed analysis into governance matters? No – it can’t in the modest length of the book and it wouldn’t as the subject area is broad. But, the book will do more than stimulate interest – it should trigger others to seek out more expertise. And, I’m sure people will call CA professionals for some guidance going forward.

But, those same readers won’t necessarily call other GRC provisioners. Why? Because those readers don’t know these firms have that competency or haven’t seen proof of same.

Too few consultancies and software vendors I deal with understand this concept. Prospective customers need and want proof that their potential business partner has people who understand their business problems. Ask yourself:

- Could a prospective customer point to anything we’ve produced that shows we know anything about their industry, their technical issues or functional problems? (Hint: my blog is but one way my firm does this) - Do we let any of our people, our thought leaders, extend our brand and ease our selling challenges? - Can we do a better job of differentiating ourselves in the market? - Would we fare better against our competition if we only had something like buyer guides, books, specialized methodologies, etc. that demonstrate our knowledge and innovation? Or, are we content to use PowerPoint slides and a firm handshake instead?

So, the two key messages I’d like to impart today are: - PROVE your firm’s competencies – saying them is not proof. If you have to say it instead of proving it, you’re selling not convincing the prospect. - Get the CA book and see how it’s done