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New CEO Rometty tweaks IBM exec lineup

Kern retires, looks for CEO position elsewhere

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Ginni Rometty was tapped to be IBM's president and CEO last October and took the reins from Sam Palmisano, still the company's chairman, on January 1.

Rometty previously ran IBM's sales and marketing group, and before that ran a chunk of the Global Services behemoth, and is not keen on making any big changes to the playbook created by Palmisano a decade ago to transform it from a hardware maker with moderate profits into a software and services giant with much more black ink on the bottom line.

That said, the day Rometty took office, she did make a few changes after Frank Kern, who was passed over for the prez and CEO positions in favor of Rometty and who had been running the Global Business Services division that Rometty used to run before she took over sales at Big Blue, decided to leave IBM after 35 years to pursue a CEO position of his own somewhere.

Kern launched IBM's Smart Analytic Systems cluster products two years ago – tooling up IBM's InfoSphere Warehouse, Cognos, and other tools and running them on x86, Power, and mainframe clusters – and it would not be surprising to see him show up at a fledgling analytics firm. Provided you can find one that hasn't been already snapped up by IBM, Oracle, Teradata or EMC.

Rometty has replaced Kern with Bridget van Kralingen, who is now senior vice president in charge of the GBS division. Van Kralingen reports to Mike Daniels, who was put in charge of Global Services in July 2010 when IBM consolidated its Software Group and Systems and Technology Group into one unit and put the two services units back together as well, simplifying its structure and giving Daniels and Steve Mills, general manager of the Systems and Software Group, complete control over IBM's two product sets.

Both Mills and Daniels are older than Rometty and were similarly passed over for the president and CEO jobs at Big Blue last year, but seem content with their fiefdoms and the great amount of autonomy that they have.

Van Kralingen, who was born in the United Kingdom and spent 15 years with Deloitte Consulting in South Africa before joining IBM in 2004, has run the financial services segment for IBM's GBS division in North America, then ran all of GBS in Northeast Europe, and most recently ran sales for all of North America for Big Blue.

Replacing herself in the top sales and marketing role at IBM, Rometty chose Bruno Di Leo, who has been in charge of IBM's cross-divisional growth markets unit and who has had various roles in IBM's operations in the United States, Europe, China, and Brazil. IBM's new growth markets executive will also get a senior vice president position, and Jim Bramante, who was CFO at PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting when IBM acquired it for $3.5bn in July 2002, will now chase the growth markets from his office in Shanghai.

It was that PwCC acquisition, of course, which was the defining moment of Rometty's career at IBM. Palmisano tapped Rometty to handle that deal, which a decade ago brought IBM $5bn a year in incremental services revenues and 30,000 employees to integrate into the Blue collective. And having successfully pulled it off, Rometty was on her way to the corner office in Armonk, New York. ®

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