back to article Stop us if you've heard this one before: IBM sheds more workers – this time, tech sales

IBM is once again laying off folks – this time swinging its axing mostly through sales teams in the US. This latest round of headcount slashing – coldly categorized internally as a "resource action" – started on Thursday, according to multiple sources. This reduction is taking place throughout North America, with some offices …

  1. a_yank_lurker

    Age Discrimination?

    While the supposed skills are with the "hip and trendy" this action could be pure and simple age discrimination. Competent older workers are well aware of the need to keep up with newer technology. But it seems the dimbulbs running Itsy Bitsy Moron have forgotten a couple things. Older workers and lifers know where the skeletons are and the backstory. Also, sales is mostly about establishing good working relationships with (potential) customers. Can the grey headed sales staff and the replacement PFY has no idea about the account and has to waste considerable time to get up to speed. Time that might cause a customer to look elsewhere.

    My experience in another industry was good salespeople knew each account and had an intelligent strategy to work each account. They would make the rounds to meet us, partially to show the flag and partially to find out when we were likely to have some activity for them.

    1. Blotto Silver badge

      Re: Age Discrimination?

      The problem is that the older wiser sales guy will likely sell you the right solution the first time. That robs big blue from earning through the customers mistakes misunderstanding the deliberately misleding information presented by a fresh eager to impress highly certified but no experience youngster. IBM's competitors (& internal devisions) especially in government accounts have shown the way in this regard and the customer rewards them with money.

      You might not have got fired for buying IBM, but IBM was loosing potential sales.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Age Discrimination?

        That robs big blue from earning through the customers mistakes misunderstanding the deliberately misleding information presented by a fresh eager to impress highly certified but no experience youngster.

        So that is why the Australian government contracts went TITSUP.

      2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        Re: Age Discrimination?

        MisleAding. LOsing.

        <sigh>

  2. Kernel

    A definite recipe for success

    If revenue is flagging then it's definitely time to slash the sales teams.

    Here's a hint for your next RA exercise IBM - those characters in R&D consume way more money than they could possibly be worth - get rid of most of them for the best bang for your buck in cost savings.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A definite recipe for success

      @Kernel

      PLEASE don't give IBM execs more ideas for cuts, because they will probably use them.

      1. Potemkine Silver badge

        Re: A definite recipe for success

        PLEASE don't give IBM execs more ideas for cuts, because they will probably use them.

        I've got an idea for them: cut execs! ^^

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A definite recipe for success

          I've got an idea for them: cut execs! ^^

          They could probably offshore the entire top-level of execs (and the board of directors) for 1/10th of what they're paying now.

    2. Korev Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: A definite recipe for success

      Cutting R&D would save money today; but at the expense of future sales when the new products that would have been developed were not.

      1. Kernel

        Re: A definite recipe for success

        "Cutting R&D would save money today; but at the expense of future sales when the new products that would have been developed were not."

        I never thought of that.

        Yes, I'm well aware that cutting R&D is not the way to ensure a prosperous future for a company like IBM - cutting the technical sales staff is not likely to help either. My intent was to underline the short-sightedness of IBM's approach to cutting costs by cutting the groups that generate new revenue opportunities.

    3. Kernel

      Re: A definite recipe for success

      Ok, I see I sadly over-estimated the ability of some of us to detect joke/irony/goldy/sarcasim (which ever it is) - next time I'll try to be clearer.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If they're aiming for "hip", might as well put it on the tombstone. This is what happens when stupid takes over the C-Suite.

  4. IGnatius T Foobar

    India Business Machines?

    India Business Machines? They still do something in the western world?

    1. dan-o

      Re: India Business Machines?

      Philippines as of last 18 months, vs India

  5. Captain DaFt

    Question:

    Will the last IBM worker be sent stateside to turn the lights out?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Question:Will the last IBM worker be sent stateside to turn the lights out?

      Probably won't be admitted under the EO.

    2. EarthDog

      Re: Question:

      They'll hire an H1B to do that. Who will probably screw it up.

  6. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    Did not read. But, let me guess, is it a similarly irresistible offer of minimum pay?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I assume that if they are hiring people half the age in the same location, they're doing it for half the salary. I know the guys doing my old job at IBM are doing it for a quarter what I was, and they have more skills (they speak Hindi as well as English (with the emphasis on 'ish'))

  8. GrumpyOF

    This is still fairly trivial...

    ...not for those who are being 'victimised' though.

    Back in the early '90s Lou Gerstner manged to remove about 40% of the workforce...something like 180 000 left 'Ive Been Moved'.

    However it didn't really take that long to get the workforce back to 400 000. What rubbish leadership.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: This is still fairly trivial...

      It's a repeating problem, because IBM continually buys other companies, inheriting the workforce from those companies.

      They then have to shed an equivalent number of people, because as a result of employee transfer of rights, they have to keep the transferred people for a fixed amount of time, whether they want them or not.

      Some of the people they take on they will actually want to keep, so to keep the numbers basically fixed, they have to shed an equivalent number of people from somewhere else in the business. And, of course, there may be a cost-saving favoring them getting rid of more experiences, and expensive, people.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This is still fairly trivial...

        Don't forget about the outsourcing arm taking existing employees as part of new contracts that then have to be spat out of the meat grinder once the jobs have been moved elsewhere...

      2. jelabarre59

        Re: This is still fairly trivial...

        It's a repeating problem, because IBM continually buys other companies, inheriting the workforce from those companies.

        IBM = "Innovation Bought Monthly"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is still fairly trivial...

      Back in the early '90s Lou Gerstner manged to remove about 40% of the workforce...something like 180 000 left 'Ive Been Moved'.

      However it didn't really take that long to get the workforce back to 400 000. What rubbish leadership.

      Gerstner's mistake was not to follow through with his predecessor's plan to break IBM up into a bunch of smaller companies.

  9. Oengus

    Wrong group

    When will IBM realise that they are laying off the wrong groups of people and start getting rid of some of the excessive management team?

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: Wrong group

      Only when no one else's left.

  10. stephanh

    Incredible Boneheaded Move

    It is my understanding that IBM makes a lot of money on its proprietary systems (IBM i, zSystems). They are low-volume but high-profit (and "reassuringly expensive"). IBM justifies the price tag with a TCO argument. That requires some experienced sales teams who can make the TCO argument convincingly.

    So now IBM is throwing out these experienced sales people and replacing them with people who probably only know how to sell you a Xeon running Linux. Great plan!

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Incredible Boneheaded Move @stephanh

      I'm sorry. What systems with Xeons inside would they be then?

      IBM offloaded all of the Intel business to Lenovo.

      There is no cost advantage of selling Lenovo systems unless they can sell significant amounts of services as well.

      1. stephanh

        Re: Incredible Boneheaded Move @stephanh

        @ Peter Gathercole

        "What systems with Xeons inside would they be then?"

        That's precisely the problem for IBM ...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Incredible Boneheaded Move

      Why do they even need sales people? IBM products sell themselves...

      * holds up Lotus Notes and Websphere *

      1. J. Cook Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Incredible Boneheaded Move

        I wouldn't touch lotus notes with someone else's 10 meter pole*. And the less said about Websphere, the better.

        *FNARR

    3. Wensleydale Cheese

      Re: Incredible Boneheaded Move

      "That requires some experienced sales teams who can make the TCO argument convincingly."

      It's not just the TCO argument that these guys can provide, but the ability to maintain a relationship with the customer for the year or more it takes to close such a large sale.

      "So now IBM is throwing out these experienced sales people and replacing them with people who probably only know how to sell you a Xeon running Linux."

      And the latter type either don't understand amount of time required to make those high value sales or are not allowed to invest that time in a single customer. If they don't meet their short term (e.g. quarterly) targets they are out of the door long before the above year or more is up.

  11. cantankerous swineherd

    one can infer that either that sales teams weren't selling anything, or that IBM have a death wish.

  12. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

    "Anyone leaving IBM is not allowed back for another five years, "

    A colleague of mine who was TUPEd to IBM alongside me left, went to another company who outsourced and he got TUPEd back to IBM again, the unlucky bugger. Got his old GBxxxxxx number back and everything. This must have been close to the 5 year limit.

    "Axed workers are given 90 days of notice – mainly to find a new role within Big Blue although this rarely happens, apparently"

    Not sure about the US, but I did this twice in the UK. I was 'benched' pretty much as soon as IBM took on the outsourcing contract (my team were solution developers, but IBM doesn't do that as a BAU activity, it was all costed projects, and my old firm found itself hard of paying), so I jumped to a different role, then that role went offshore, so I opted to enter 'The Skills Centre' (snazzy buzzword term for 'The Bench' at the time, but it came with a budget for retraining, this happened just the once, as far as I know), so I got a course out of it, and went back to Windows support. Of course, now there are so few staff, I doubt there are the opportunities to jump role any longer.

  13. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

    I have sympathy, but...

    "After 29 years and 9 months, I've been RA'd. 90 days notice, and 30 days pay. What a disgrace. I'm 50 years old and have always been a top performer. Still in shock."

    The IBM "job for life" mantra ended in the mid nineties, and those chill winds of change have been blowing through the corporation since 2002-2003. This should be anything but a shock.

    1. Potemkine Silver badge

      Re: I have sympathy, but...

      This should be anything but a shock.

      True, how someone working for a big company couldn't expect to be treated like shit at one moment or another?

  14. Anonymous South African Coward

    And a few months later they will hire back some of their laid off workers as consultants, because their new workforce does not have the experience required.

  15. Dave B

    Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM, just for selling it.

  16. Potemkine Silver badge

    Definitions

    Loyalty: what a company asks its collaborators but never gives in return.

    Resource: expendable flesh-based item

    IBM: going lower for the last 30 years, has reached now the 4th circle of Hell.

  17. Not also known as SC

    For Those of Us not Working in the States

    Could someone clarify for me what this actually means?

    "I've been RA'd. 90 days notice, and 30 days pay."

    Does it mean that the employee will cease working for IBM after 90 days, and then gets an additonal 30 days' pay as part of their redundancy? Also what does RA stand for? I'm not commenting on the statement, just want to know precisely what it entails.

    1. Miss Lincolnshire

      Re: For Those of Us not Working in the States

      Reamed Anally or Resource Action, I forget which.

      Comes to much the same thing.

      1. Neiljohnuk

        Re: For Those of Us not Working in the States

        Or simply BOHICA!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: For Those of Us not Working in the States

      RA = Resource Action = Redundancy.

      They are being told that in 90 days they will no longer work for IBM, and will - only if they continue working for IBM until the 90th day - be paid 1 months salary (30 days pay). If they leave IBM for another job before the 90th day they will not receive any additional payments.

      In short, they want rid of the employees but not enough to remove them from the building immediately because they have a freeze on hiring new personnel abroad so don't have international resources to replace people with!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: For Those of Us not Working in the States

      That's right, RA is a redundancy, 90 days notice means you are leaving in 90 days from when you are told and 30 days pay is effectively your lump sum above what you are paid for the 90 days. 30 days after such long service is just mean though IMHO. It's designed to give you some fallback while you look for another job.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: For Those of Us not Working in the States

        ...except there's even a catch to that.

        IBM pays you IN ADVANCE. When you leave IBM it feels like you've lost a month's pay somewhere, assuming the next job pays in arrears.

        So 30 days simply means you get a pay-cheque as usual when you leave. It provides no fall-back at all. Even just a couple of years ago you would get some kind of package to say thank you and help you on your way, but not any more. When people learn of the terms and conditions of IBMers they are usually quite surprised.

        So after all those years of service, it's pretty brutal for this guy. Even though you've seen others get RA'd, you always think it won't happen to you, especially when you're a top performer. But if you happen to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time....

        1. stephanh

          Re: For Those of Us not Working in the States

          Even more cynical, it is likely that *because* he is a top performer and experienced, he is relatively well-paid and therefore first on the chopping block for this drastic cost-cutting operation.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: For Those of Us not Working in the States

      90 days to find another role within IBM. The problem being that some managers will hold off posting positions if an RA round is happening or in some cases, withdraw a role citing something along the lines of 'need to clarify duties' then post it again once the round is finished.

      The other problem is that if you do find a role in another team, that may team will often be asked to provide a role to be RA'd to 'pay' for the fact that you didn't actually leave (job has to be subtracted somewhere.) Hence, managers are reluctant to consider someone who has been put on the RA list as then their team would have to shed the job.

      I've seen one team who had lost staff due to resignation and who needed to hire but couldn't because of hiring freeze in higher cost countries so they had open roles. Yet, they were then asked to cut one of their remaining staff because the unfilled roles were already taken as a cost takeout and were a future expense.

      The other bit of bastardry is that now they ask people to point out all the risks if they do end up leaving - what important tasks have been missed in the assessment, risks to customer etc. under the guise that if you provide enough information that it might stop the RA. All it means is that the victim has provided all the data on the things the low cost replacement will need to be onto when they get hired. If you don't provide a 'justification' for your job being kept then they say you have agreed that the position is no longer required. I've not seen a single instance where a person's RA was reversed due to the impact if they left but plenty of push on them to provide all documentation and risk information. Then the same role pops up in a low cost country a few weeks after the person has left, often with no handover in the leadup.

  18. WibbleMe

    For those IBM workers scanning the internet apparently Resource Action jobs would be a good one to take, would be a shame if you fired the person who fired you.

  19. Lion

    Totally not hip

    A hip employee : wears a hoodie, jeans with holes in the knees and a t-shirt with a picture of Elon Musk on it. Image is everything. You can get HIP from Harvard.

    OK, so how are all these hip new hires going to relate to the non-hip management? The suit is going to require diversity training. Performance evaluations will have new ratings: 1= outstandingly hip, 2 = exceeds hip requirements, 3= meets hip requirements, 4 = not hip enough, 5 = totally not hip. And the non-hip managers get to determine this.

    Ah yes, I remember my 35 years at IBM. I was never hip.

  20. FozzyBear
    Devil

    I'll guarantee that if you do a headcount now , the beancounter and Human Refuse departments will probably have the largest headcounts. Sorry state for a so called tech company.

    Shame IBM isn't in palliative care at the moment and 'could' be saved. Unfortunately, those in the "C" suite don't want to put in the effort to save it, the easy path for them is to harvest the organs so they can collect their bonuses.

  21. ps2os2

    IBM then and now

    IBM at one time was the top notch employer in the US. People lined up for jobs and were considered lucky if they were hired.

    When I had a question on Sales I would walk over to the friendly IBM salesman that had his own desk in our office.

    Ten years go by.

    I had to ask around who our sales rep was, nobody knew.

    I finally get a phone number. I call the person and he listens to my question and says something to the effect that your going to have to sign a contract in order to speak to tecnical person at IBM.

    I asked HUH?

    He tells me any question that has to be asked a technical person at IBM now requires a contract.

    I left shaking my head.

    IBM did a 180 turn around in 10 years. I couldn't even ask about a new CPU that we had bought, We had to sign a contract... sigh.

    IBM used to be the customers friend and would gladly answer a question without a flinch.

    IBM will pay for this in the long run.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But I thought Trump was keeping jobs in the US

    Don't tell me that orange-faced tiny-handed baboon lied to us?!

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