The new CEO of IBM just sent a welcome letter to employees, calling for a 'maniacal focus' on AI and hybrid cloud and a pragmatic approach: 'This is about aiming for speed over elegance'
- IBM's new CEO Arvind Krishna took over his new post on Monday by calling on the company's 350,000 employees to embrace a "maniacal focus" on AI and hybrid cloud, the two arenas the tech giant aims to dominate.
- Krishna, 57, was named in January to replace outgoing CEO Ginni Rometty. In a letter to employees sent the morning he was set to take over, he vowed a pragmatic leadership style.
- "This is about being nimble, pragmatic and aiming for speed over elegance, he said. "It's about being comfortable with ambiguity and continuously adapting to shifting circumstances."
- Krishna also announced a series of leadership changes, including that Howard Boville, most recently CTO of Bank of America, is joining as a senior VP of cloud.
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Arvind Krishna, IBM's new CEO, took over his new post Monday, immediately calling for a "maniacal focus" on AI and hybrid cloud - the key technological arenas that the tech giant aims to dominate.
Krishna, who was named in January to replace outgoing CEO Ginni Rometty, also vowed a pragmatic and nimble style in leading the iconic tech behemoth which has struggled to regain its once dominant position in a fast-changing market.
"One of my key priorities will be fostering an entrepreneurial mindset across our business," Krishna, the 10th CEO of the 109 year old corporate icon, said in a letter to IBM employees sent early Monday as he began his term.
As one of Rometty's top lieutenants, Krishna is known to be leading IBM's game plan based on a new trend called hybrid cloud, in which businesses set up networks on web-based platforms while keeping huge chunks of their data and applications in private data centers.
Krishna has said that IBM expects hybrid cloud to be a $1.2 trillion market opportunity.
IBM is also pushing more aggressively in tapping its vaunted research capabilities, especially in AI.
"Hybrid cloud and AI are two dominant forces driving change for our clients and must have the maniacal focus of the entire company," Krishna said in his letter.
He said that to achieve this goal, the company will have to change its thinking and move fast to succeed: "This is about being nimble, pragmatic and aiming for speed over elegance. And, it's about being comfortable with ambiguity and continuously adapting to shifting circumstances."
The statement is notable given IBM's reputation as a gargantuan business organization with a conservative, even slow-moving, culture.
Krishna helped mastermind the Red Hat deal
A native of India, Krishna joined IBM in 1990, and had been in charge of the company's cloud strategy under Rometty - including playing a key role in IBM's $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat, the popular open-source cloud software maker whose products are popular among developers, and which could potentially expand the tech giant's reach in enterprise cloud.
Like IBM's 350,000 employees, Krishna has been sheltering in place in his home near IBM's Armonk, New York headquarters as the world reeled from the coronavirus crisis.
"I'm writing to you for the first time as your new CEO in the midst of a global public health crisis unlike any other that we have faced," he said.
But his letter underscored the IBM strategy that he helped shape, and the challenges the company has faced.
IBM remains a major player as the provider of enterprise software and equipment used to power private corporate data centers. But it has struggled to adapt to the rise of the cloud, which lets businesses set up networks in web-based platforms, allow them to scale down or even abandon in-house data centers.
The trend has been dominated by the cloud giants, led by Amazon, Microsoft and Google. It also hurt the business traditional enterprise tech companies, including IBM, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and Oracle.
On Monday, he announced that Jim Whitehurst, the former Red Hat CEO who is taking over as president, will be in charge of IBM strategy and the company's cloud division.
He unveiled other leadership changes: Paul Cormier, who had been head of Red Hat's product and engineering, is now CEO of the open source software company which IBM acquired for $34 billion last year.
Bridget van Kralingen, who has played a key role in the company's cloud software strategy, is now senior vice president of global markets.
Krishna also announced that Howard Boville, who had served as Bank of America's chief technology officer, has joined IBM as senior vice president in charge of its cloud platform.
Krishna is taking over amid heightened skepticism about IBM's ability to bounce back to become once again the most dominant player in enterprise tech.
But John Danner, a lecturer at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business said IBM "remains on a very short list of the great survivors in all of business."
"I think it's too easy to write IBM off as too late to the party kind of company," he told Business Insider. "There are not that many companies that have been able to survive and redefine themselves as fundamentally and as often as IBM has been able to do, through the last hundred plus years."
He said Krishna has "that combination of not just technological sophistication but also deep cultural familiarity across the organization."
"He's clearly got inside credibility," Danner said. "He's got technological fluency. And the question is whether he has the strategic flexibility and disciplined kind of tenacity to drive this behemoth into what is going to be a brave new world for that organization."
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