IBM recently announced that CEO Ginni Rometty would be stepping down in April, to be replaced by Arvind Krishna. On the surface, replacing an IBMer that’s been with the company since 1981 with an IBMer that’s been with the company since 1990 isn’t the most… inspired move. In fact, it seems like business as usual for Big Blue.
But as Tim Crawford points out, this might be an instance of IBM playing a bit of 3D chess. With the acquisition of Red Hat, IBM made a decisive investment in what it sees as its future. Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst might have seemed like a logical successor to Rometty, if we weren’t talking about IBM here. Installing Krishna to appease the legacy business customers that IBM depends on while continuing to transition into some form of modernity makes a lot of sense. With Whitehurst named to succeed Rometty as company president in 2021, it also doesn’t eliminate the possibility of him assuming the role before too long.
And besides, it’s not like Arvind Krishna was heading their mainframe business, he’s ably led their Cloud and Cognitive Software unit for some time. He’s grown the unit into a revenue leader for the company with consistent growth, even as overall company revenue has consistently struggled to grow. Not to say that IBM’s days of sagging growth are behind it, but the change in leadership might be a little more inspired than an initial glance would suggest.