back to article As coronavirus catches tech CEOs with their pants down, IBM's Ginni Rometty warns of IT's new role post-pandemic

Last night, one of the most senior figures in the IT industry from one of the biggest companies gave the strongest indication that when COVID-19 lockdowns gradually begin to lift, people will not return to the jobs they once had. That means both tech jobs, and how technology supports other business roles. Speaking to BBC …

  1. Paul Johnston

    Here is my guess

    >>I'm going to modernise applications that my IT [department] perhaps weren't modern enough to change fast enough for me'.

    So they will ask all the IT senior managers who will say "Oh not our fault look at our ancient staff, they are not agile enough".

    Redundancies hit at the lower technical levels as we don't need them, only people who can manage a "Digital Transformation" will remain.

    It all goes pear shaped. Senior IT management move on to their next positions and organisations are left with partially working systems (if they are lucky) and no one who can sort it.

    As I say just a guess.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      IT departments perhaps not modern enough

      To be "modern", they need budget. It's hard to get budget when you're considered nothing more than a cost center.

      So who is to blame ?


  2. Anonymous Coward

    "people will not return to the jobs they once had."

    And believe me, from running IBM the way she has, Ginni knows all about people not returning to the jobs they once had!! :)

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So after watching 22 successive quarters of fail (that's 5.5 years !) and the was-queen of IBM is selling the recipe for success ?

    Nope, not buying. To me she seems like an utter irrelevance, and if she had all this useless middle-management fat to cut then why not do it earlier ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      " she had all this useless middle-management fat to cut then why not do it earlier "

      - because she needed middle management to be the toe-cutters for the lower peons; can't sully ones hands with actually doing layoffs oneself.

    2. Claverhouse Silver badge

      Nope, not buying. To me she seems like an utter irrelevance...


      I'm sure the BBC drone interviewing her fawned on her as a successful businesswoman, and considers her a management guru...

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        I don't think you could class Emily Maitlis as a drone. OTOH whoever considered Rometty as someone to interview on the subject....

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I wish I could upvote this more than once! I'd happily spend a few hours clicking the up-arrow on this one.

      Its a bit rich that Ginni now suggests middle management should go and we'll need to retain techies when throughout her entire miserable disastrous leadership reign she's presided over round after round of slashing frontline customer facing tech roles while the management layers all pat themselves and each other on the back and collect their bonuses for meeting ridiculous meaningless cost cutting (not cost Saving) targets.

  4. Gunboat Diplomat

    Middle management

    Ah yes, we don't need middle management. So what are the options? A senior manager deals with the bs coming from the exec team and the board while helping technical staff learn and grow while riding their Unicorn from fire to fire with an extinguisher in hand or; senior manager deals with the bs and expects a bunch of junior staff to plan projects, model and forecast costs, report progress, fight other mangers trying to hand off work, co-ordinate multiple teams all whilst actually doing the tech stuff they were hired for? I'm all for being empowered, but if you're paying someone a junior-mid level dev salary, I think it's only fair to give them the responsibilities of a junior-mid level dev, not half a manager's position responsibilities on top.

    That probably isn't a concern for a woman who has continued ploughing the company she works for into the ground. Out of interest, how many layers of management are there between her and the lowest level of "doers"? Surely if they're between her and the lowest level they are in the middle, or is it the job title that makes them senior.

    Maybe I'm just bitter, but during my brief stint at IBM I counted 7 levels between me and her and I was far from the lowest level.

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Middle management

      My last teams reporting line:

      Team leader

      Technical manager

      Business manager or customer manager

      Section manager

      Department manager

      Department manager

      Group manager...

      Then four directors.

      Not bad for a team of two....who 9 out of 10 times bypassed the lot in order to get anything done.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Middle management

        My experience with IBM as well.

        12 managers. 2 actual worker bees at the bottom of the chain.

        Not even exaggerating.

  5. ecofeco Silver badge

    IBM? Middle manglement?

    Is there ANY IBM employee that isn't middle managlement? I have yet to meet one.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Current IBM employee here

    There were significant layoffs planned throughout IBM before Covid-19 provided the perfect excuse needed for a real cull of dead wood. The simple fact is that IT has changed a fair bit during most IT workers careers, enough to justify paying top dollar only for the delivery techs who have kept themselves relevant and regularly booting anyone who can no longer meet unachievable utilisation targets, without many large contracts signed or meaty government projects to work on.

  7. RLWatkins

    IBM's repeated layoffs...

    ... are as sure a sign as any that huge corporations are not the ones which create jobs.

    They're selling into a saturated market, so the only way for them to "grow", to continually increase profits, is to shed employees, like IBM, or to get people to pay them again and again for things they already bought, like Microsoft, or both, like US telecomms.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To automate something takes a great deal of skill, knowledge, and experience. Since Rometty basically gutted the workforce of such talent, leaving only a hollowed out shell of offshore resources that are just not up to the job, its kind of hard to see how IBM are going to be able to make any major gains in this arena. Sticking to the old 'cookie-cutter' approach to delivering automation (which seems to be the latest fad) is just going to create a mess. I can see some very interesting articles appearing in The Register in future....

  9. Chronos


    If you think anything will change long-term because of this virus, think again. The system we have now is one of human nature which has evolved from innate greed and the desire to get as much of the pie for as little of the effort as possible. Ms Rometty may be spouting a few sound-bites but sod all of any substance. The only thing this virus will affect is the imbalance: The gulf will widen between those who actually do productive tasks and those who sit on their arses skimming off the cream. The only place middle manglers are going is up, promoted out of harm's way.

    Before you go off thinking I'm some sort of militant socialist, I'm actually a libertarian¹ and I include the bloody unions in this formula.

    ¹ i.e. that one should be able to forge one's own path without let or hindrance within reason, which includes not having the vast majority of your productivity syphoned away by lazy arseholes.

  10. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "... I'm going to really accelerate automation ..."

    Great idea, provided the automation is not set running and left unsupervised ("fire and forget" management). Equifax had all the technology and automation it needed to prevent the massive 2017 data breach. The problem was an almost total lack of management control, so nobody knew, not only whether they were vulnerable (and subsequently whether they were under attack) but even who was responsible for finding out.

    Blind faith in technological "solutions" does not protect against harsh realities, particularly where the technologies are so fundamentally flawed (take a look at the CVE or the national CERT notices).

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ginni Rometty, former CEO and current executive chairman of IBM, said companies would notice there is a "fair amount of middle management" that "perhaps" they don't need.

    And she couldn't figure this out when she was still CEO??? Sheer brilliance I tell you.... NOT!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Still jobs

    Sure, there's plenty of jobs for those middle managers once they get the boot; need people to disinfect and decontaminate parks and streets after all the Antifa protesters.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stick to your competency

    And if anybody knows about useless layers of middle management, it's IBM.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not the tiers, it's the columns

    Interestingly, at my employer it's not so much the tiers as the columns. What I mean is, we have product teams, and they are a bit overmanaged, but no more than you'd expect in a company of this size.

    But then alongside we have entire "columns" of non-product teams, whose major purpose seems to be to demand status updates from the actually productive teams, impose pointless rules on us, demand that we update our reports to the latest template (TPS cover sheets, anyone?), and generally drain away time and energy.

    For example, we have a "cloud strategy" organization that is supposed to coordinate "cloud strategy" across all the products. And sure, there's a need for some coordination - but it could easily be a side-gig for a top tech person in one of the product teams. Instead, what we get is an entire management hierarchy with its own SVP, Directors, managers, etc., whose sole contribution is to convene cross-product status meetings, in which a dozen people take it in turn to report their status while the other eleven pay no attention because it's of no relevance to them. (The idea of conducting it as a stand-up meeting, where you only speak if you need help from somebody else in the room, or know something they need to hear, is completely alien).

    And we have many, many of these columns. And of course, like all good columns, their sole purpose is to hold things up.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    30% is *good*

    It's all relative, if your competitor collapsed by 50% and you collapse by 30%, you're a winner! That drop is everywhere, even in places that did a successful COVID 19 quarantine, so I wouldn't worry about the absolute numbers, its the relative numbers that matter. I'm seeing drops tight across ASEAN and it doesn't bother me. The same companies that rank highly still rank highly, its just that they had a revenue drop.

    US Federal Reserves intervention, last number I heard for it was $5.1 trillion, and ontop of the $2 trillion+ US Gov bailout, you're looking at 35% of US GDP as worthless junk. So you're 5% ahead already of US so far.

    UK, well sure you've had Covid round 1, but there's just no need to have round 2 of Covid19. USA is expected to get hit with another round (courtesy of Trump), so there's a chance to get ahead of them.

    Assume US gets a second hit, ~50% damage. Assume Republicans block elections undermining democracy, ~60% damage, assume Trump makes a grab for absolute power in January ~90% damage.

    Meanwhile UK tightens is quarantine (particularly the face masks rules), joins Germany and the rest of the world and moves on from Covid19. I'm not a China fan, but the new world order seems to be inevitable. World trade priced in Euros and Yuan, not ideal for the Pound, but if you handle it strongly the the pound would be strong.

    BTW, Trump has banned the CDC from releasing their guidance on opening businesses safety, he's been ignored, he'll probably do a meltdown on twitter this weekend, or get his butler to invade Cuba or something ridiculous, but it makes a lot of sensible points. For what its worth, yanks, try to save yourselves:

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 30% is *good*

      Can I make a point here, you maybe miss.

      There comes a point where there is so much fake money flooding the US economy that you just cannot find places to stuff it. Do you stuff it in mattresses? Cupboards? Yachts? Where?

      None of that fake money is handed over based on success, the companies that have friends, or are failing the most are getting the money.

      You cannot simply, overnight magic up 1/3rd of the US economy as if its real economy. You can inflate property prices by 35% but nobody can afford to buy those assets off you.

      So don't go swapping real assets for dollars. It would be as dumb as swapping Manhattan Island for beads. Wait for the US to sort itself out, then the shiny beads might be worth something.

  16. adam payne

    I'm going to modernise applications that my IT [department] perhaps weren't modern enough to change fast enough for me'.

    Modernising IT systems is hard when you are just another cost centre and management try to run IT on a shoe string budget.

    With the Covid 19 situation a lot of businesses won't have the budget to modernise and it will take time for businesses to recover if some are even able to.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Idiot Business Monster

    If one thing Ginni has taught IBM employees is harder you work , get you head nailed to the wall. Kiss enough arse and brown noses survive longer with a fatter paycheck. If you are a techie at I've Been Mugged you definitely the WRONG type to be working there. She single-handedly wiped out mobile remote working teams that were far more productive than the watercooler cafeteria tea coffee drinking crowds that flocked to the centralised cost recovery centers while WFH beans just got axed for doing a bloody good job. Guess why the new CEO is going to have a tough time? How to get back all the fired talent and put more pressure on hardworking employees :-( something has to give and CEOs don't give anything back to the peons.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like