By GREGORY ZELLER //
Old programmers never die. They just code away.
For renowned digital developer Russ Artzt, that means there’s a life after CA. The cofounder of what started out as Computer Associates International, who “retired” last summer after a roller-coaster 39 years with now-CA Technologies, is back at the helm of a digital innovator – and ready to flip the switch on its first commercial offering.
Artzt, a regional lifer who earned a bachelor’s in mathematics at Queens College and a master’s in computer science at NYU, wasted little time reprogramming his golden years. His ballyhooed retirement from CA was in August; by October he’d incorporated Digital Associates, a Smithtown-based software startup eyeing the digital transformation marketplace.
Digital transformation, which eyes societal changes from the application of digital technologies, was a natural lure for Artzt, the former CA research & development EVP who wrote the code for many of the titan’s early products. Despite eight grandchildren and legend status – not everyone, after all, co-architects a global software empire – the veteran programmer never intended to go gently into a good retirement.
“I love the software business,” Artzt told Innovate LI. “I love coming up with the ideas, I love building the products, I love selling to customers and getting new customers and supporting them.
“I have passion for the business, and it’s still with me.”
That passion now beats through Digital Associates, which is building a database of commercial websites that Artzt called “probably the most comprehensive in the world.” The idea is that companies don’t always have the best perspective on their own digital presence – what’s resonating, what isn’t – and even if they get some perspective today, it’ll likely change by tomorrow.
“Companies today, their digital presence changes every day,” Artzt noted. “Most really don’t know how well their digital resources are doing.”
That can actually be an enormous problem for kingpin conglomerates like Xerox, which owns over 6,000 registered domains. But for any company with a digital presence – including websites, blogs, social media accounts and other channels – quantifying that virtual footprint can be difficult.
“Some companies don’t even know all of their domains and websites, much less the details,” Artzt said.
When completed, Digital Associates’ cloud-based Digital Lens will give companies an unprecedented look at their own digital presence. Not only is the database growing fat on domains – “You say ‘Disney,’” Artzt noted, “and we’ll tell you their 5,000 websites” – but the Digital Associates team is busily “crawling” each of those sites and applying a proprietary scoring system.
Led by former CA staffers Vincent Re, a software architect, and John Kane, who managed CA’s insanely popular Unicenter software suite, Artzt’s army is weighing website quality, user sentiment and other factors designed to give site owners a comprehensive review of their true digital performance.
“How is it resonating?” Artzt asked. “How are those new marketing concepts scoring? And how is your competition doing? If CA wants to compare its products to IBM’s products to see how they’re resonating in the marketplace, we can do that.
“It’s been proven that the stronger your digital presence, the stronger your company,” he added. “So the whole idea is helping our clients improve their digital presence.”
Artzt defines the effort as “the heart of Big Data:” an unprecedented analysis of commercial digital strategies around the globe, all compiled into a single application. He credited the Digital Lens platform’s to Re, a “brilliant architect” who gave the database “the scalability and speed we need.”
Not every company in the world will find its way into Digital Lens – the line start at firms pulling about $40 million in annual revenues, Artzt said – but those who do will enjoy an unparalleled look at their digital domain, and their competitors’.
“This is an enormous amount of data,” he noted. “And we figure it all out. We see who’s linking to them on the web. We analyze their potential partners. We will provide the richest data available on any enterprise’s digital presence.”
Digital Associates isn’t the first company in this space, but other digital analysts can’t match Digital Lens’ depth – and none have all that data stored in one place, according to Artzt.
“They can do Google searches,” he said. “But we’ll provide the data automatically. That’s our difference.”
And while it is in the software business – and though a Google search of “digital transformation” leads instantly to a link to CA – Artzt insists he’s not competing with his old company.
“We have a completely different focus than what we did at CA,” he noted. “The focus there was managing and securing data centers. My focus at Digital Associates is to build software products that will analyze a company’s digital presence and make recommendations.”
Artzt said he plans to sell the database online first, starting in April, and later create enterprise products available through direct sales. Future offerings will include separate analyses of companies’ individual marketing brands and trademarks, as well as detailed breakdowns of other firms showing the most interest.
But first comes the database, which Artzt promises will be the most data-rich compilation of its kind, including thumbnail images of each analyzed website.
The team led by Re and Kane is comprised mostly of recent SBU programming graduates, noted Artzt, who still chairs the advisory board at the university’s Center of Excellence For Wireless and Information Technology. After months of hard work, they’re about ready to share the fruits of their labor. Artzt, who said he “definitely” plans to grow his seven-person team over time, is ready, too.
“This is a whole new space – the digital marketplace,” he said. “But I still love developing new products. That’s always what I’ve been attracted to. I’m a technologist.
“But I’m also an entrepreneur,” Artzt added. “I really like the business side.”