IBM’s Potemkin Prosperity

A mighty post from Steve Denning on Forbes.com, detailing his perspective on IBM’s current situation.

You need to read the full article, which is pretty damning in places.  However, rather than pick on some of the negatives, I’ll take this more positive extract from the end of the piece:

IBM needs to build on its strengths. IBM was once a great company that respected and rewarded its employees and served its communities and society.  It’s a company that still has the power to change the world if only it would choose to.

Yet it’s hard to see how it can accomplish this with the current management team or the current board and their obsolete management philosophy. It has been evident for some time that IBM has been heading down the wrong path. Why did they just watch and not act? According to Nick Summers at Bloomberg BusinessWeek, IBM’s leadership has been “like a driver obeying the commands of a GPS system even as passengers shout that the car is clearly headed toward a ditch.”

It’s time to get back to Tom Watson Sr.’s philosophy of putting the customer first among stakeholders and earning a real living again, but in a very different context with a very different approach to management.

I firmly believe that IBM does have a future, and that some of the products that I’ve supported and worked with over the past decade will play a significant part.  However, there is little doubt that IBM does need to change direction and plot a new course over the next few months, just as it did under Lou Gerstner back in the Nineties.  I sincerely hope that ditching the 2015 Roadmap is just the first step in doing so.

Stuart McIntyre is a Senior Strategist at Fostering Community Limited. He curates a number of product-focused news sites, is a lapsed podcaster, founded the Social Connections user group and regularly speaks at conferences and events. This blog represents his own slightly-eccentric and usually-controversial opinions!