In the weeks since I resigned from IBM, I’ve been trying to organize my thoughts on the future of the company. A few recent developments have helped crystallize the points I want to make: first, there’s been a spate of high-level departures from the company, some public (1, 2) and many others which I’ve just heard about through the grapevine. Second, rumors about a major reorganization have surfaced in the tech press, reflecting widespread rumblings within IBM itself. These developments are related, but are only properly understood with a clear picture of what’s going on at IBM as a whole.
IBM is a company in transition – both by choice and not. Its sprawling size, century-old legacy and multitudes of business lines make this transition noisy, messy and very public. Changing strategies for IBM involves breaking a lot of conceptual models that a lot of people have held about the company for many years, perhaps no where more so than in the financial community. This is one of the reasons why much the mainstream coverage of IBM is highly simplistic, ill-informed, or flat-out wrong. (Indeed, that could describe a lot of what finance people write about tech.)
I remain a true believer in IBM. I have faith that the company will find its way again, and that IBM will still be selling to our grandchildren one day. But in the meantime, there’s a lot of soul-searching to be done. In the last several months (and particularly since the crappy Q3 results were released), there’s been something of a dogpile of criticism of the company, much of which is unfair. So here I’m going to try to offer some more thoughtful criticism on how the company can find its way again.
Edit, 11/23: I’ve added an update since the Q4/FY 2014 results were announced.