Tag Archives: ibm

fix ibm – hire me as your ceo

Robert Cringely has written myriad times on IBM. His most recent post was titled, “How to fix IBM”.

His solution is simple and easy: “Go back to customers being a corporate priority.”

But IBM, as it stands today, will never get there.

And all the “leadership” they’ve brought in over the years has only compounded their errors faster – they’ve never done anything to even try to fix them. Why? Because they keep bringing-in stodgy old-thinking people who have no concept about what customer service means.

Ginni Rometty, and the rest of the senior leadership at IBM, needs to go. Absolutely. But when IBM brings-in new leadership, it truly needs to be, well, “new”. You need the same kind of leadership sea change Jack Ryan championed in Tom Clancy’s Executive Orders – you don’t need career managers and “senior” leadership: you need people with ideas who are will to try something new. Who are willing to fail, but to fail fast. Who will learn from failure, and keep iterating until there’s something that works.

So, IBM, I have a simple solution for you: hire me as your CEO. Give me 36 months to fix your problems. If I haven’t, let me go back to whence I came. But when I have, Wall Street will love you, and you’ll be on track to stay relevant for the next hundred years. Or, at least the next 30 (since I’ll want to retire some day). I’ve got a team of people already in mind who can do more for you in 18 months than the entire executive team has done in the last 180.

automation

I have been deeply involved in data center management and automation for well over 5 years.

Most companies still view automation the Wrong Way™, though – and it’s a hard mindset to change. Automation is NOT about reducing your headcount, or reducing hiring.

Automation is used to:

  • improve the efficiency of business tasks
  • improve employee productivity
  • reduce human error
  • ensure consistency, and auditability
  • improve/ensure repeatability
  • replace “fire fighting” with planning and proactivity
  • ensure an organization can pass the bus test (which disturbingly-few can)
  • free engineers to work on interesting, engineering problems – not day-to-day busywork

Cringely has an article on this topic this week, entitled “An IT labor economics lesson from Memphis for IBM“.

How can a company 1/100,000th the size of IBM afford to have monitoring?  Well, it seems DBADirect has its own monitoring tools and they are included as part of their service.  It allows them to do a consistently good job with less labor.  DBADirect does not need to use the cheapest offshore labor to be competitive.  They’ve done what manufacturing companies have been doing for 100+ years – automating!

Even today IBM is still in its billable hours mindset.  The more bodies it takes to do a job the better.  It views monitoring and automation tools as being a value added, extra cost option.  It has not occurred to them you could create a better, more profitable service with more tools and fewer people.  When you have good tools, the cost of the labor becomes less important.

Any company that fails to realize that throwing more people at the problem is rarely the answer (something former IBMer Fred Brooks wrote about as a post-mortem of the OS/360 project in The Mythical Man-Month), is doomed to fail – consistently, and tragically.

And yet IBM is still in the mindset of the 1960s and raw, manual labor in an increasingly-connected, -compliant, -complex, and –cloudy world. They are still trying to solve problems the Risk way – throw a gob o’ guys at the problem, and roll over your opponents through sheer numbers.

In many ways, it is sad to see the demise of once-great companies like IBM. There’s the loss of competition, the passing of the Old Guard, etc.

But it’s also a huge opportunity for new businesses to come in, compete, and clean-up in sectors the Bug Guys can’t (or won’t) touch well.