IBM shuffles top execs

Musical chairs

DVD it in many colours

The top brass running Big Blue are still reshuffling executives in the aftermath of the departure of Mike Lawrie, formerly the senior vice president of sales and distribution. IBM likes to cross-train its key executives in different geographies, job types, and lines of business every couple of years, but there could be more to these particular moves than meets the eye...

IBM's second quarter financial results saw the company's Software Group struggling to make headway in a very tough market, while the iSeries division within its Server & Technology Group was stopped nearly cold by a transition to the Power5, with sales down 28 per cent. It would not be surprising to some that, in the aftermath, Al Zollar, the general manager of the iSeries unit who hails from Big Blue's software businesses, would be replaced by a channel expert, in this case Mike Borman, who was most recently general manager of global business partners - the person who deals with IBM's vast reseller channel.

With Borman as the new general manager of the iSeries unit, this marks the second time that a seasoned IBM channel executive has taken charge of the iSeries. Zollar's predecessor, Buell Duncan, was in charge of the PartnerWorld organization for a number of years before he was tapped to be general manager of the iSeries unit. With about 85 per cent of iSeries shipments (and perhaps 50-60 per cent of the revenue) of the OS/400 server platform coming through channel sales, IBM is concerned about getting the channel in order and motivated for the eServer i5 push. Zollar steered the i5 gear through to its completion, much as Duncan did a substantial revamp of the iSeries line (which was launched in January 2003) before he became IBM's WebSphere evangelist.

Zollar has been named general manager of IBM's Tivoli software unit, another line of business that has been struggling lately. The move does not appear to be a penalty box for the poor sales of the iSeries in the second quarter, but rather a desire to get a software executive familiar with Tivoli back into that unit to shore it up. Zollar came to prominence within IBM when Big Blue acquired systems management software maker Tivoli Systems nearly a decade ago. He was senior vice president of development for Tivoli, in fact, and had various management positions in Software Group's development laboratories in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Santa Teresa, California. Prior to running the iSeries business for 18 months, Zollar was named general manager of the Lotus groupware unit.

Borman, the new general manager of the iSeries unit, has a broad range of experience. Prior to running the PartnerWorld organization, he was president and chief operating officer of Blue Martini Software, a customer relationship management software maker that Borman left IBM for during the dotcom bubble. The bubble burst, though, and as Blue Martini lost air, he eventually resigned in October 2002 (he came back to IBM to run PartnerWorld in January 2003). Prior to his job at Blue Martini, Borman was the general manager of the RS/6000 unit (now the pSeries and p5 server lines), and worked his way up to that job by being the a general manager for the American Midwest, then vice president in charge of North American SMB sales, then vice president of worldwide Unix server sales. Borman started his career at IBM in 1977, and has held a bunch of engineering, sales, marketing, and management positions.

The most important thing you can know about Borman is that he has worked with Bill Zeitler, who also used to be a general manager of the OS/400 platform and who now controls all of IBM's systems and storage. Zeitler, plus Steve Mills, who heads up Software Group, and Doug Elix, who used to run IBM's Global Services unit and who now runs Big Blue's sales organization, are where a lot of the real power is in IBM these days, and they seemed to have decided to trade a bunch of executives this week to try to improve sales and operations.

Specifically, Donn Atkins, who used to head up worldwide software sales, will report to Elix and take over Borman's job as head of worldwide business partner relations. As Zollar, the former iSeries GM, moves to be GM of the Tivoli unit, Robert LeBlanc, who used to have that job, will replace John Swainson, who has been the general manager of the application and integration middleware software lines (what IBM internally calls its AIM, as opposed to its DB2 database, business line). Completing the circle, Swainson, who used to steer the development of WebSphere and related middleware, now takes over Atkins' job as the head of worldwide sales for Software Group.

The departure of Lawrie in May is what caused IBM's former chief financial officer, John Joyce, to take over as head of Global Services as Elix moved into Lawrie's top sales job at Big Blue. Some of the changes outlined above might have happened in another six months even if IBM's second quarter was stellar, but seemed to be precipitated by the prior executive changes and the relatively poor results in Software Group (particularly Tivoli) and the iSeries line.

Source: ComputerWire/Datamonitor

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