back to article IBM CEO Ginni flouts £75 travel crackdown, rides Big Blue chopper

IBM’s glorious leader Ginni Rometty – also known in some corners as the axe woman – this week cocked a snook to the corporate directive on travel restrictions by flying into the Hursley-based R&D centre in a Big Blue chopper. An IBM UK Lab Campus blog, seen by El Reg, revealed that the chairman, president and CEO spent 17 May …

Seriously, the old guard of tech need to quit hiring old-guard CEOs who have little clue on leadership and innovation. The only corporate knob they know to turn is on how to cut costs and come up with new marketing spin.

William Hewlett, Dave Packard, Guglielmo Marconi, Charles Ranlett Flint - more I haven't mentioned - are all collectively turning in their graves!

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collectively turning in their graves

Spinning in their graves I think. Combine that with some copper wire coils and maybe IBM have finally innovated again, and come up with a sustainable energy source...

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Anonymous Coward

There is nothing wrong against proper old guard

The reality is that old guard DOES NOT BECOME A MANAGER TODAY. At all. Never (at least as long as it is "proper" old guard).

The only way anyone becomes a GM or above is if he/she is brainwashed in a business school to ensure that the understanding of innovation and long term R&D planning developed during his/her years of becoming "old guard" are replaced by short term cost benefit analysis, marketing, outsourcing and product placement.

You can thank Lee Iacocca for that one.

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... and maybe IBM have finally innovated again, and come up with a sustainable energy source

Perhaps that is the plan to generate new revenue. My guess is that TJ Watson is doing a few thousand RPM right now. Someone should check on his grave to see if anyone has rigged up some wires to the nearest IBM lab.

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IT Angle

The only corporate knob they know to turn is on how to cut costs and come up with new marketing spin.

CEOs don't know how to "innovate". And when I mean "innovate", I mean build something from scratch and not buy someone's invention and rebrand them. The last CEO I've known (maybe there are more) that did innovate was Steve Jobs (RIP). Nearly all the CEOs know nothing about innovation. They "think" they have the know-how to cut costs.

In the past, we used to walk around with our mobile phone (not a smart phone) doing nothing but sending text messages and doing calls. With the introduction of the iPhone, every CEO copied the concept. Is copying the iPhone concept called "innovation"? Look at current Apple CEO? What innovative concept has he come up? He's just riding the wave Steve Jobs created. In 10 years, people will forget about the company called Apple.

Going back to IBM, what innovation(s) have the company came up with?

Without a innovative leader at the helm (whether it's an IT company to a brothel), every firm will continue to spiral down. It's just a matter of time.

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Unhappy

Old guard?

Ginni isn't old guard and that's a lot of the problem with her. She seems to have forgotten that a technology company needs, er, technologists as well as salespeople, marketroids and accountants. And that technologists hired by the square metre in low-salary countries aren't actually any good. Executing to plan is the mantra, but it doesn't work if your technologists are incompetent and the plan relates to some historical business scenario that no longer exists.

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Seriously, the old guard of tech need to quit hiring old-guard CEOs who have little clue on leadership and innovation.

Stop the agism. It isn't that they're old guard. That idea should bite the dust as surely as the idea that the problem was an "old boys club".

It is that top executive management comes from sales and marketing.

Managers, marketing types, they're loners know nothing about technical innovation, nothing about innovation on teams, nothing about the technology, nothing about the physics.

They're detached from the programmer and engineer class, which makes it super easy for them to lay such "technicians" off.

They can drive an entire mega-company into the ground without a moment's guilt over drawing a huge salary while failing to deliver the success shareholders are paying them for.

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CEOs don't know how to "innovate". And when I mean "innovate", I mean build something from scratch and not buy someone's invention and rebrand them.

Isn't that what "IBM" stands for? "Innovation Bought Monthly"?

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They can drive an entire mega-company into the ground without a moment's guilt over drawing a huge salary while failing to deliver the success shareholders are paying them for.

There used to be a saying (maybe still is) that a freshly-minted MBA could run *any* company. Yeah, maybe more like run any company *into the ground*.

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a freshly-minted MBA

Right there is a big chunk of the problem, if the CEO is not an MBA then most of his/her aides are.

An MBA may be a useful thing to have, I don't really know because I haven't got one but all of the young MBAs I have met all have one thing in common; absolutely no idea how to run an enterprise.

They seem to come out of uni armed with a piece of paper and a lot of day to day administrative knowledge which, after all is the title of their degree 'Administration', running the admin side of a business is the bit that managers do, enterprising, innovating and growing a business is what entrepreneurs do butnot too many of those around.

If an MBA comes knocking, give 'em a broom for a couple of years and tell them to keep their eyes open.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: a freshly-minted MBA

MBAs might be OK as office administrators. Then again they would be outcompeted by ones such as a young ex-Math teacher lady I saw do it once. Best office admin ever!

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The only real innovation in the original iPhone was that you were required to have a data plan. Everything that the iPhone could do was already available for years on feature phones, it's just that most people didn't bother paying for a data plan.

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Re: There is nothing wrong against proper old guard

One way to get rid of this short term thinking by upper management is to radically alter the way they are compensated.

Executive pay should be split into base pay and then some form of bonus/options based on the performance of the company in the future. Keep base pay at something like $250k, a good salary but not excessive. Then all those extra millions that they are used to making are deferred 3-5 years.

So if your actions as CEO only cause short terms gains but set the company up for failure in the future, then those options are going to be worthless by the time you are allowed to exercise them.

I'm sure such a compensation structure would have a big impact on how companies are run. But I'm also sure it won't happen.

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The iphone did less than most other smartphones (no 3g or gps or unapproved software). But it was very simple to set up. Put in a sim card and at worst an apn, username and password and your were done.

Ever tried configuring the internet on a windows mobile htc kaiser? With multiple locations and bit its almost impossible even with a walk though. Tried getting a psion to connect to the internet though your phones irda port? Nightmare.

In short there were lots of people with more capable phones prepared to pay for a data plan but almost nobody could get it to work before the iphone.

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Re: There is nothing wrong against proper old guard

"Then all those extra millions that they are used to making are deferred 3-5 years."

Make that 10 years minimum.

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MBA...

Generally known round here to stand for "Master of Bugger All".

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Nice, a Eurocopter Dauphin

Or Airbus Helicopters as I think we're supposed to be calling them, chartered from Starspeed at Fairoaks going by the registration. Think £1000s per hour.

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Coat

Re: Nice, a Eurocopter Dauphin

But she's got the wrong one!

The registration says CFO, and she's CEO...

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Anonymous Coward

Criteria for "higher travel costs"?

I'm fairly sure that when I was working for IBM flying from Manchester to Southampton to get to Hursley wasn't an option even when it worked out cheaper than the train. I don't believe that the criteria has anything to do with costs.

And I wonder if the person with 50+ years service was one of those who resigned over the pensions fiasco about 10 years ago only to be taken on again as contractors for considerably more money when it turned out that they were critical to the business.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Criteria for "higher travel costs"?

"I'm fairly sure that when I was working for IBM flying from Manchester to Southampton to get to Hursley wasn't an option even when it worked out cheaper than the train. I don't believe that the criteria has anything to do with costs."

That's a shame.

Since I'm always billing the customer travel time, travel expenses and mileage (if using a car) I can pretty much choose the optimal method. I actually prefer trains or driving if travel time is equal or even a bit longer than by flying. Short haul flying is just unpleasant in so many ways.

Anyhoo, a few years ago I was ordered to travel on a short notice and the flight only had business class available. So be it...

My CEO was also flying to the same client in the same flight, but he was in the tourismo class... apparently he had blinked first and bought his tickets just a wee bit earlier than I did. Luckily he was a good sport about it afterwards. The middle managers probably wouldn't...

AC for a reason.

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50 years ?

Not even Yoda's dad is that old surely ???

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Re: 50 years ?

Is that calendar years or IBM years? They just seem longer...

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Re: 50 years ?

> Is that calendar years or IBM years?

Neither, it's years billed to the customer (the guy is actually only 29, but he does a hell of a lot of overtime)

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Anonymous Coward

DXC threshhold

Before prior ( 5 level) approval is required is £0

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Anonymous Coward

The axe woman cocked a snook

I think The Register missed a big opportunity to bring in the big draw on this article if they had given more thought to the title. Maybe it is not too late to change the title to "The axe woman cocked a snook"

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Devil

Of course it's easy to justify this!

If you are paid $31,000 an hour, it makes sense to spend a few $1000's to save an hour travelling into Hursley, right?

Don't ask me to justify the $31,000 an hour though....

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Re: Of course it's easy to justify this!

If you are paid $31,000 an hour, it makes sense to spend a few $1000's to save an hour travelling

No. Only oiks are (supposedly) productive for every hour they work. At any senior level you do the work you have to do, or believe has to be done, and so IBM don't get anything more out of any board member by saving them a few hours here and there.

Arguably, if the entire board and senior plonkership team spent 8,760 hours a year in unproductive travel, the rest of the business could actually get on with doing some real work, so far from saving time, the board should spend much more time travelling.

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Quite consistent

"Do as I say, not as I do"

Just the same as recommending teleworking to customers.

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Windows

Did he take the opportunity to relieve himself on them as he flew over their heads?

Just in case any didn't get the message?

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Anonymous Coward

Whiney proles. Fuck it. If I was the CEO of a multi-billion company I'd have a helicopter. You think she should be sat on the floor of some 125 like a Rep/Labour leader?

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Anonymous Coward

the workers did get something!

I believe some of the office carpet was too heavily soiled to be walked on by a CEO, so it was replaced.

Hopefully that wasn't a temporary measure and the workers get to keep using it in memory of when Ginni came to visit....

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Re: the workers did get something!

I thought you were going to say the carpet was soiled by over-excited managers losing control of their bowels while meeting the CEO.

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Anonymous Coward

IBM hasn't grown in 20 quarters, but neither has it imploded in the way that HP(E) has. So all this travel/head count stuff is simply IBM cutting their way to profit (or, at least, better EBITDA numbers). If the financials don't improve significantly -- and I don't see any reason why they should -- we are going to see continual rounds of cutting until they do.

To my mind, IBM have a ton of talent, but have not been able to convert that into anything that moves the needle in terms of sales. Watson is basically advertised in the same terms as S/360 was in 1965: ooh, it's a mysterious Brain that can run your business! OK, so you sell a few of them, but that is not going to keep them afloat. Java and BPM consulting? Puhlease.

One day soon, Google Consulting Services will be a thing. Amazon consulting is already here for select customers like the Federal government. They'll hire the IBM sales people who have fat rolodexes stuffed with the phone numbers of key buyers: state government, Fortune 500 CIOs and so on. Then they'll start selling their experience in making things cloudy to people. And it's buh-bye IBM.

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"BM hasn't grown in 20 quarters"

@AC - Companies run by competent people seem to find a way to grow in IT. Even companies that have marginal management manage to grow in IT. Shrinking sales for 5 years indicates Itsy Bitsy Morons should be firing the imbeciles in charge.

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It's time for IBM to replace Ginni Rometty. Ginni Rometty's EPS at any cost has been very harmful to IBM. IBM making the right choice by embracing the cloud. The problem is that IBM needs to accelerate what they are doing. Things like these petty travel cuts are destroying employee morale.

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Anonymous Coward

using star salespeople to make the sale means it doesn't matter how good the product is

I remember getting a phone message back prior to Y2K from some gravely voiced American going on about how IBM was an industry leader in remuneration.

I thought to myself, what, no company boasts to programmers about being an "industry leader in remuneration".

I was still mystified as the caller started going on about "selling what was on the truck".

So I figured I inherited a phone number from an IBM sales guy and was getting that week's routine sales group motivation message from Sam Palmisano.

The IBM way, using 'star' salespeople to make the sale means it doesn't matter how good or how good a fit to clients needs the product is, because the star salesperson can sell anything.

That is how it is. Programmers are an interchangeable commodity. Engineers are an interchangeable commodity. One programmer/engineer is as good as another, so why not get the cheapest.

So IBM has become a bunch of highly paid 'star' sales people running around trying to sell products made by interchangeable commodities.

If paying sales people a lot of money and promoting them to head companies was the magic path to success IBM would still be a Top 10 worldwide company.

Sadly for IBM what matters today is what is in the product, what the product can do -- how good is the product and how good a fit is it to client needs.

in other words, not whether the product was sold by star salespeople but rather was the product designed by star engineers and star programmers.

IBM would have better luck with commodity salespeople and star engineers and star programmers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "BM hasn't grown in 20 quarters"

Shrinking sales for 5 years indicates Itsy Bitsy Morons should be firing the imbeciles in charge.

Since IBM loves outsourcing to 3rd world countries so much, I'm sure they could find someone in India to act as CEO for $50K/year, maybe be generous and pay board members and senior VPs at teh same rate. Could save TONS of money, and they probably wouldn't destroy the company any faster than the current crop.

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Re: "BM hasn't grown in 20 quarters"

@AC - 'wouldn't destroy the company any faster than the current crop.' - you would be hard pressed to find a less competent group then the imbeciles running? the show.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: using star salespeople to make the sale means it doesn't matter how good the product is

Close.

"Sadly for IBM what matters today is what rubbish IBM product they can sell you, regardless of what the product can/can't do, how bad it is, or how bad a fit is it to the client needs."

FTFY.

If I worked for IBM I'd have to charge you... oh, wait.....

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Unhappy

Remember this

This article reminds me of this: Big Three auto CEOs flew private jets to ask for taxpayer money

(http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/11/19/autos.ceo.jets/index.html?_s=PM:US)

"They're coming to Washington to beg the taxpayers to help them. It's unseemly to be running around on a $20,000 flight versus a $500 round trip," Schatz added.

And IBM can't say "it is policy". They can make a bigger spin by putting out there that the CEO forgo the option to fly private air by opting to fly commercial. I guess it's just a power trip for her: Do what I say and not what I do.

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Anonymous Coward

Meanwhile, in the middle of the WannaCry Ransomware Debacle, too many IBM Watson/Security TV Commercials in the USA, claim Watson is able to analyze and prevent an exponentially high amount of security threats. REALLY? Guess Watson has been on vacation, during the WannaCry attack? More likely, Watson is all hype and no byte. Spend IBM's money while you can, Rometty...

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In fairness...

I haven't seen the adds as I am not in the US. I also realise I could probably find them on Youtube but I am typing this so meh!

Anyway Watson as a security product or as an assistant working with something like QRadar can only really work on what it's given. Even if it has feeds from round the world and customers report what they can (and have the appropriate logging on) if the attack is triggered roughly the same time on already infected devices there is little it can do.

You are left blaming various other factors like out of date operating systems, poorly implemented controls, un-patched systems and lack of training etc. Which to be honest are probably more to blame.

From your point of view I can see why it would rankle as you are led to believe it would prevent this type of thing. I would notch it up to its marketing. You always have to weigh where the truth is in what they say. It is actually quite good tech and they certainly need it to start making money.

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"The axe woman". Not sure why Rometty gets this title when Marissa Mayer and Meg Whitman have been doing much much worse.

Doesn't seem very balanced.

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Happy

Not the worst travel expense I can think of.

To be fair to the Ginster, I have heard stories of far worse CEO chopper trips. My fave was when Carly Fiorina was touring hp's offices worldwide, IIRC to an office in France. On being told that the lawn in front of the office was too small for Carly's preferred method of travel - executive helicopter - she demanded the trees by the lawn be chopped down to make more room. The cost of the lumberjacks went on her travel expenses, which some friends at hp found extra annoying seeing as the event happened right after Carly had sent out a memo telling those at the coalface to cut back their travel expenses!

Another fun tale is of the CEO at a leading U.K. integrator (no names cos he's still in the business), who threw a tantrum when he found out the executive chopper was painted red when the corporate colours were blue and grey. A replacement chopper was hired at a cost of £33,000 for the CEO to make one flight of less than a hundred miles.

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Anonymous Coward

Business Studies was the numpty degree for all the thick kids. Having a Masters in it doesn't make you a genius - for from it.

I read the whole MBA syllabus from Stanford in under 4 hours on flight to New York. OK you do a project and study a few examples. It was interesting though really basic compared to a Masters in Physics or Applied Maths. Something you can't just pick up and read from a newsstand.

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Anonymous Coward

The usual excuse for management extravagance

At least when we were downsizing, was the extravagance had already been paid for. Of course, at the time we were dealing with people in VP (and higher) positions who would happily:

1. Fire a load of staff.

2. Trouser a fat wad of bonus money, for meeting their cost saving targets for the quarter.

3. Fire a load more, next quarter, due to the one off costs of firing a load of staff during the previous quarter.

4. Repeat (well live, sack, repeat).

There's nothing quite as cynical, unimaginative or bland as the American bored room.

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Has she not learned from Australia's choppergate

Obviously she is not familiar with Australia's Former Senator Bronwyn Bishop and the Choppergate scandal.

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/bronwyn-bishops-5000-helicopter-ride-to-liberal-fundraiser-fails-the-sniff-test-joe-hockey-20150715-gidee9.html

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Not excusing her, but Ginny has a tech degree

Ginny's degree is a bachelor's degree in computer science and electrical engineering. Not the usual MBA type, at least for her undergrad education. I think she was a system's engineer before getting into management.

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