The 30-year-plus IBM veteran takes over during a time of unparalleled social and economic turbulence.

Lynn Haber

April 17, 2020

4 Min Read

IBM CEO Arvind Krishna is about two weeks into his new job. Around the corner is the company’s 2020 annual meeting of stockholders. And, as the company’s 10th CEO, he dives into the job in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.


IBM’s Arvind Krishna

Clearly, Krishna, is jumping in at the deep end. The new CEO has a rich history with IBM. But will his 30-year-plus career at IBM give him the firm footing required to lead at this tumultuous time?

“If there’s one thing that this public health crisis has brought to light is the very essential role of IBM in the world. We are the backbone of some of the most critical systems of the world. Our technologies and services help banks run credit card transactions, businesses run supply chains, telcos connect to customers, healthcare providers improve patient care, and companies and cities tackle cyber threats,”  Krishna wrote to IBM employees on April 6, his first day on the job.

“In our 109-year history, we have weathered countless storms and seen many crises unfold before our eyes. Today, we are financially strong, and we have a loyal client base. When this crisis ends, I’m confident that IBM will emerge strong and we will be focused on growth. Few companies have the trust, credibility and cumulative wisdom to change the fabric of society through technology the way that IBM can,” he said.

The new CEO is ready to tackle what he sees as top priorities for IBM.

  • Hybrid cloud and AI. IBM will leverage its open source and security leadership to gain competitive advantage.

  • To win the architectural battle in the cloud. That’s an opportunity for IBM and Red Hat to establish Linux, containers and Kubernetes as the new standard. And, to make Red Hat OpenShift the default choice for hybrid cloud.

  • Drive customer success with continuous innovation.

Krishna, who drove the $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat, will work with Jim Whitehurst, president at IBM. The former senior vice president at IBM and Red Hat CEO will head IBM strategy and the cloud and cognitive software unit. The appointment was announced in late January. That was the same time that Ginny Rometty, IBM chairman, president and CEO announced that she’s stepping down. She will remain executive chairman until the end of the year.

There were a few other new leadership changes.

Bridget van Kralingen becomes senior vice president of global markets, leading global industries and integrated accounts. She succeeds Martin Schroeter, who retired after a 28-year career with IBM. van Kralingen previously served as senior vice president blockchain, industry platforms, global industries, IAs and partnerships at IBM. She joined the company in April 2004.

Paul Cormier will become Red Hat’s new president and CEO. Cormier’s  previous role was president of products and technologies.

Bank of America’s chief technology officer, Howard Boville, joins IBM on May 1st, as senior vice president of cloud platform, overseeing the IBM Cloud.

“This combination [of individuals] is going to allow us, leveraging all of the Red Hat technologies, because we do believe that as people embark on this transformation to cloud there is going to be an architectural war. In that war, we believe the winning architecture is going to be Linux, containers and Kubernetes, which are parts of Red Hat’s portfolio,” Krishna said on an interview on CNBC’s Squawk Alley. “As we bring the Red Hat portfolio with Paul Cormier into what Jim and Howard build to provide to clients, delivered in place by Bridget, this is going to be a huge victory for us as we go into and emerge from the current pandemic.”

With IBM PartnerWorld at Think Digital, May 5-6, the vendor isn’t giving away too much today about what the new IBM leadership team and strategy means to IBM partner ecosystem.

What IBM and channel chief David La Rose have done to date in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is offer a number of digital platforms and resources to the company’s business partners.

La Rose stepped into his new role as general manager, IBM partner ecosystem in July 2019. The former channel chief, John Teltsch, is now general manager IBM systems sales.

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About the Author(s)

Lynn Haber

Content Director Lynn Haber follows channel news from partners, vendors, distributors and industry watchers. If I miss some coverage, don’t hesitate to email me and pass it along. Always up for chatting with partners. Say hi if you see me at a conference!

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