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The Decline and Fall of IBM: End of an American Icon? Paperback – June 10, 2014
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About the Author
Robert X. Cringely has been a Silicon Valley journalist and character for more than 30 years. An early employee of iconic companies including Apple and Adobe Systems, Cringely began his career as an engineer then transitioned into reporting and analysis, first at InfoWorld and since 1997 as one of the first Internet bloggers, first at pbs.org and now at cringely.com. His work has appeared in magazines and newspapers throughout the world including Forbes, The New York Times, Newsweek, MIT Technology Journal and many others. In addition to InfoWorld he has worked as a columnist for Inc. and Worth magazines and ASCII magazine in Japan. His previous book, Accidental Empires, was published in 18 languages. His television documentaries made primarily for PBS and UK Channel 4 have aired in more than 60 countries. Cringely lives in Santa Rosa, California with his lovely wife and three young sons.
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The book will be important as it will likely get good media attention due to Cringely's notoriety and should create additional pressures to IBM's stock price which is truly the one item that the Senior Management is concerned with.
This book also exposes off-shoring for the short-sighted sham that it often is.
There are a number of factors that are contributing to the decline. One of the worst problems is the relentless cost cutting that lays off experienced employees and shifts their jobs overseas to untrained personnel. The problem is that while the trench workers are cut and/or overworked, the management structure and layers just continue to grow. The drive to get to $20 EPS by 2015 has decimated the morale and capabilities of staff, and it's tragic that no one in IBM management has stepped up to say that's a meaningless goal by a prior CEO and it's gutting the company. If there were only a handful of (ex-)employees sharing bad experiences, it might be tempting to think that it's only a minority of people who are complaining. But the numbers of stories are huge, and the examples are too many to be isolated incidents.
The current CEO is tossing big bucks at "the next big thing" to try and restore IBM to a dominant position as an industry leader. But until/unless those pan out (Watson and cloud come to mind), their execution on existing software and services continues to go downhill as they don't have the experienced staff any longer as they were "too expensive". The future will tell whether IBM or Cringley ended up being right on the outcomes, so it's not as the death of IBM is a done deal. But history is littered with large tech companies that are no longer around, and IBM is not "too big to fail."
If you are (or were) interested about or associated with IBM at some point, The Decline and Fall of IBM is an interesting read. The second half of the book is padded (in my opinion) with blog comments he's received on his articles. You could easily read those online if you were interested. But the first half of the book makes for some persuasive arguments.
Obtained From: Amazon
Although he covers other divisions of IBM (Hardware, Software), his focus is the Services area, its problems and impacts in the company's results as a whole. His major objection is to the migration of American job posts to other countries and this could be seen as an American nationalist point of view. The fact is that quality was affected not only because of the lack of skills of other countries' employees. He focuses in India and mention Indian workers who say that the best ones don't want to work for IBM India either and relate that the knowledge transfer was not done properly. But other aspects (costs cuts in salary, bad processes implementation, lack innovation and lack of investments in technology (!) were perhaps even more influential in the bad results of the Services area and the problems IBM is facing in its clients with major trouble projects.
I was not able to sleep before I finished reading. A must ready for those interested not only in IBM but in the IT industry and the modern corporate world.