100 more years of IBM?
I joined IBM UK in early 1990, as part of the then new AIX Support Centre to support the then unreleased RISC System/6000 (to give it it's full title).
It was very interesting that in order to skill up this centre so that it would be creditable, they recruited people from AT&T, ICL, BULL, OSF, the education sector and their own business partners, as well as moving people from their general Software Centre. One of the claims was that in 1990, the launch year, the UK AIX support centre had over 100 man years of UNIX experience (although I contributed over 10 of those!)
We were one of the few departments in the early '90s that got investment, and there was a serious headcount reduction program going on around us, but I never got the feeling that IBM was anything close to going bust. IIRC, there was a terrible set of figures published for the 1991 business year, but this was because IBM lumped all of the business restructuring costs into that year, like the provision of the money for the redundancy packages that actually spilled over into following years. This accounting trick was an open secret in IBM, so all of the managers I talked to were quite relaxed about the situation.
I left IBM in 1996, having decided that there were few real places in the developing IBM UK for an out-and-out techie, and since then, I have seen the company completely change. They used to value their people, but no longer.
Because of what I do, it is inevitable that I come across people I knew/know who are still in IBM, so I hear quite a lot about what is happening.
It is now all about the bottom line. They treat their people with almost open contempt, making pay rises and promotions almost unachievable. They discourage their more experienced people so that they would want to leave, to be replaced by cheaper, less experienced people. They make impossible promises to their graduate recruits, to get the maximum work and enthusiasm from them before disillusionment sets in. There is almost no internal investment or training. IBMers are encouraged to work as often as possible from customer sites, so IBM locations can be closed through apparent under-use. Expenses are frequently knocked back. Tricks are played with the pension plans to encourage older people to leave.
And to cap it all, at the end of last quarter, there was a request to try to squeeze in as much customer-chargeable work as possible before the quarter close, to boost the quarter! Whilst there was nothing to say to create extra work, the implication was there.
I can't see IBM being around in another 100 years. The top management and large shareholders will have extracted as much value as possible out of the company, ruining it down in the process by continual cost-cutting to the point that customers will loose confidence and look elsewhere for hardware and services. Then the shareholders will bail out, driving the share price down, and the execs will leave to do the same somewhere else.
I guess it's just indicative of modern business practices. It'll get all large companies eventually.