IBM's Palmisano starts hunt for successor

With Chief Executive Samuel J. Palmisano on his way out, the race for IBM’s top job is on.

Sources close to IBM tell the Wall Street Journal that Palmisano is beginning consultation on who should be appointed when he leaves.

Though IBM faces a challenge as the computing landscape evolves and moves towards the cloud and greater mobility of devices, the company remains a leading performer – jumping ahead of Microsoft recently.

As IBM moves into its centennial year, the pressure is mounting for the right successor, with sources indicating that the switch will be made in the next 12 to 18 months.

One of the top candidates at the moment is sales boss Virginia M. Rometty, while Global Services chief Michael E. Daniels and Rodney C. Adkins, the senior VP for hardware, are both in the running, if slightly behind.

Apparently Rometty is the leader of the pack and has been one of IBM’s “top stars” over the past decade, according to a former executive.

Rometty has spent three decades climbing the ladder at IBM, and was recently put in charge of global sales, as well as leading on marketing and strategy.

This could mean that she is very well placed to make the jump to head honcho once the position appears.

According to one anecdotal account, saintly Rometty was chastised for her self-focused nature early in her career.

However she took criticism on board and in one instance, rather than tearing her sales team a new collective orifice for messing up a sales call, took the time to lead a workshop being less crap in future. 

“She coached us out of it,” the executive is quoted as saying. “She is very good at making everyone reflect on what they need to do.”

If she is appointed then it’ll will be another giant step towards the good fight led by those social-revolutionary feminists, the Spice Girls. Girl power: not only would Virginia become IBM’s first female boss, but also the largest US company led by a woman.

Michael Daniels is also in the running, who has experience looking after Global Services in the Asia-Pacific region.

Although his underlings were more than happy to help get him the top job by lavishing praise on Daniels, it seems that there are questions over his age.

Daniels is turning 57 in August, therefore not so far behind Palmisano, who will be hitting the 60 mark himself later this year.

Meanwhile, another potential candidate, who alongside Rometty could buck the trend of middle-aged white guys as CEO, is the African-American Rodney Adkins. Adkins has been keeping IBM’s hardware business on track.

However, there are some concerns about his lack of experience compared to the other candidates.

Palmisano will be attempting to keep the race for his place as low key as possible in order to keep losers from bowing out once a name is plucked from IBM’s Big Blue Hat.