- Here are 14 executives who are playing key roles in IBM CEO Ginni Rometty’s plan to dominate what the company sees as a $1 trillion hybrid cloud market.
- IBM is still a smaller player in the cloud, which is dominated by powerful rivals led by Amazon, Microsoft and Google. But Rometty sees hybrid cloud as a huge opportunity for IBM to carve out a leadership position.
- Some of these executives have been mentioned as potential successors to Rometty, who has been CEO since 2012. There’s no indication that she’s going anywhere, but that hasn’t stopped speculation about who could one day get the call to replace her.
- They include Arvind Krishna, IBM’s cloud boss, and Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat, which IBM just acquired for $3.4 billion.
- If IBM decides to focus on its core business services and consulting market, an analyst says Bridget van Kralingen, who now leads global industries, and Martin Schroeter, who leads global markets and financing, may also be contenders for the top post.
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IBM was once the undisputed star of enterprise tech — the company that sold the hardware and software running many of the business world’s computer networks.
But Big Blue has found itself falling behind in the cloud, where even the largest of companies are shifting some or all of their computing infrastructure to the tech giants’ massive data centers. That market is dominated by more powerful rivals like Amazon, Microsoft and Google.
IBM is making a big bet on a related trend, hybrid cloud, which lets businesses store data and use applications on cloud platforms, while maintaining big chunks of their networks in private data centers.
CEO Ginni Rometty boldly predicted in January that IBM will be the first-place player in that emerging market, which IBM predicts will eventually be worth $1 trillion. IBM just bought Red Hat for $34 billion, to form a cornerstone of this bold bet.
Amid all of this, industry insiders have started to wonder out loud about who might one day replace Rometty, 62, who has served as CEO since 2012. To be clear, there’s no indication that IBM’s chief exec is going anywhere. But that hasn’t stopped the chatter: In August, a Morgan Stanley analyst predicted that Jim Whitehurst, the CEO of Red Hat, will inherit the mantle.
IBM isn’t saying anything, and declined to comment for this story. But in light of IBM’s hybrid cloud push, and the Red Hat acquisition — the largest in the company’s history — we thought it would be a good time to take a look at IBM’s executive bench, and the leadership taking it to the next stage. There might even be some clues into who is the heir apparent at IBM.
“Lots of strategic decisions in this next pick,” IDC analyst Frank Gens told Business Insider on the possibility of a new CEO. “IBM, like most of the traditional leaders in tech, continues to be in a major transition, as the industry shifts more fully to the cloud, and a whole new generation of tech like AI, blockchain, quantum, etcetera.”
The next CEO must focus on two key arenas: selling cutting edge technology products and offering high-end services as a “digital business-savvy advisor,” an arena where it competes with the likes of Accenture, Deloitte, or Capgemini.
“It will certainly remain in both businesses, but which will it choose to more strongly emphasize with its next CEO pick?” Gens said.
Here are the 14 IBM executives who are expected to play an important role in that strategy, including several considered by analysts to be Rometty’s potential successor:
Arvind Krishna is IBM’s cloud boss and key strategist of its hybrid cloud offensive.
Title: Senior Vice President in charge of cloud and cognitive software
Arvind Krishna is the point man of IBM’s cloud strategy. Krishna has emerged as the top evangelist of Big Blue’s bid to conquer what he recently told Business Insider will be a $1.2 trillion hybrid cloud market.
He also played a key role in IBM’s $3.4 billion acquisition of Red Hat, which he says will enhance the tech giant’s position in the cloud and help expand the reach of Watson, IBM’s core AI offering. “This gives us a massive reach to take AI tools and give them to people wherever they want,” he told Business Insider.
Analysts have mentioned Krishna, who joined IBM in 1990, as a likely successor to Rometty.
“He certainly would be a good consideration,” IDC analyst Fran Gens told Business Insider. “He’s been a go-to guy for Ginni in strategic product areas.”
Jim Whitehurst is CEO of Red Hat, which IBM just acquired for $34 billion.
Title: CEO, Red Hat
Jim Whitehurst has led Red Hat since 2008, and will continue to lead the open source software company as an independent entity under the IBM umbrella.
His name also has come up as a possible successor to Rometty. In a note to clients in August, Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty said Whitehurst “is viewed by many investors as a potential CEO successor.”
IDC analyst Frank Gens said if IBM decides that its next CEO should focus on boosting the company’s strengths as a tech trailblazer, Whitehurst would be a logical contender, together with cloud boss Arvind Krishna.
However, Michael Brook, chief technology officer and co-founder of Pitchly, a business data applications company, speculated that Whitehurst may not want to give up his position at Red Hat, which he says is “the more exciting and progressive of the two” companies.
And it also may not be good for IBM, he said: “IBM has the resources, but Red Hat knows the direction. Without Jim Whitehurst running Red Hat, that direction could falter. And charting that path now is of the utmost importance, as the landscape expands with an increasing number of competitive offerings.”
Bridget van Kralingen is in charge of expanding IBM’s reach in cloud software, including emerging technologies like blockchain.
Title: Senior Vice President for Global Industries, Clients, Platforms & Blockchain
Bridget van Kralingen is a veteran IBM executive who joined the company in 2004. She’s also one of Big Blue’s most prominent women executives and has been named to Fortune Magazine’s “50 Most Powerful Women in Business.”
Van Kralingen currently leads efforts to expand IBM’s reach in cloud software Previously, she was one of the executives of IBM’s $17 billion services and consulting business, which competes with such tech giants as Accenture, Capgemini and Deloitee.
That makes her a potential CEO candidate, if IBM decides that its “future growth and success” is in building on its strengths as “an industry vertical-savvy tech advisor,” IDC analyst Frank Gens told Business Insider.
Martin Schroeter is in charge of global markets and financing.
Title: Senior Vice President in charge of global markets and financing
Martin Shroeter is in charge of IBM’s global financing business and the company’s marketing and communications. He served as chief financial officer from 2014 to 2017.
News of his replacement as CFO by James Kavanaugh sparked speculation that Schroeter had been demoted. But Jim Cramer of The Street argued the opposite, that Schroeter was being groomed to succeed Rometty, noting that Schroeter’s new role could be a way for him to develop a stronger grasp of IBM’s financial position.
IDC analyst Frank Gens also speculated that if IBM decides that its next CEO must be focused on the company’s services and consulting business, Schroeter would be a smart choice.
While they may be tapped to lead IBM one day, right now that job belongs to Ginni Rometty. Here are some of the top execs helping lead Rometty’s biggest bets.
Mark Foster is in charge of IBM’s global services business.
Title: Senior Vice President in charge of IBM Global Services
Mark Foster leads IBM’s services business, a $48 billion business with a workforce of about 240,000.
He is a veteran of the enterprise services and consulting industry, having worked for 27 years at IBM rival Accenture.
Bob Lord is in charge of cognitive applications, including AI.
Title: Senior Vice President for cognitive applications
Bob Lord left AOL to join IBM as the company’s chief digital officer in 2016. He eventually moved on to a new role, in charge of expanding the reach of AI in the company’s applications.
John Kelly is in charge of intellectual property, academic and government partnerships and Watson Health.
Title: Executive Vice President in charge of intellectual property, security and privacy.
John Kelly, who joined IBM in 1980, is credited with helping maintain Big Blue’s position as a leader in US patents for more than 25 years. He has also played a key role in expanding the reach of Watson, IBM’s core AI technology.
Ruchir Puri is chief scientist at IBM Research.
Title: Chief Scientist
Ruchir Puri is a company veteran who has been with IBM since the 1990s. He is considered one of Big Blue’s top scientists and thinkers, and is expected to play a key role in IBM’s bid to be a major player in AI. That’s not surprising since Puri has been involved in the development of IBM’s AI projects, including Watson.
Tom Rosamilia is in charge of IBM’s server and storage business.
Title: Senior Vice President in charge of server and storage systems
Tom Rosamilia is another IBM veteran who has been with the company for more than 30 years. He is in charge of the company’s core hardware and software business. This includes managing IBM’s massive supply chain and global partnership networks.
Paul Cormier leads Red Hat’s engineering and product management.
Title: Executive Vice President, RedHat
Paul Cormier joined Red Hat in 2001 when he became executive vice president of the open source software company’s engineering division.
He has been one of Red Hat’s key executives, and played an important role in explaining what will happen once IBM completes the $34 million purchase, especially the plan to keep Red Hat an independent business. He told Business Insider that Red Hat will become like Switzerland — totally neutral in the ongoing cloud wars. In other words, Red Hat will continue to support Amazon’s, Google’s, and Microsoft’s clouds, no matter what integrations it launches with IBM.
James Kavanaugh is IBM’s chief financial officer.
Title: Chief Financial Officer
James Kavanaugh joined IBM in 1996 and took on different financial leadership positions before being named chief financial officer in 2018. Before then, he was in charge of introducing changes to IBM’s operating model to keep it abreast of current trends.
Steve Canepa is in charge of IBM’s media and entertainment business.
Title: General Manager, global media and entertainment business
Steve Canepa joined IBM in the 1990s and is currently in charge of the company’s business related to media and entertainment. He has been one of IBM’s most visible spokespeople.
Juan Zufiria is in charge of IBM’s infrastructure services.
Title: Senior Vice President in charge of global technology services
Juan Zufiria is another company veteran who joined IBM in 1987. He became deeply involved in IBM’s international operations in Europe, Africa and the Middle East before taking over his current role as head of IBM’s infrastructure services business.
Bob Picciano is in charge of developing new systems based on cutting edge technologies.
Title: Senior Vice President in charge of cognitive systems
Bob Picciano joined IBM in 1987 and spent years in the company’s database business. He is currently focused on IBM’s efforts to develop systems based on emerging technologies, including AI, machine learning and quantum computing.