An Open Letter to IBM

You folks need to look in the mirror

Dear IBM/Ms Rometty,

I had the very great [dis]pleasure of working “with” your company for the second time in my career. Third time, if you include ex-IBM folk. In light of recent developments around Watson and AI, I felt it neccesary to restore some balance to your brand.

In 1999, I rejected your organisation as a place to work because it paid less than everyone else, by some 10%. It also ignored the 2 years I had already done as a commercial junior programmer whilst doing my degree and indeed my degree content itself, to offer me a place on it’s 4-year “graduate training programme” with graduates of different disciplines, like English, Music and Art History. IBM at the time was almost still synonymous with being a place to be. The hardware was solid and the brand still meant something.

I said “No” IBM is not for me.
The culture is about climbing the tree, 
Regardless of what your competence be,
You don’t have it, so you buy it, or oppress it, you see.

Several years pass and I find myself working with IBM people stationed at a company I worked at. There was on old saying “Nobody ever got fired for recommending IBM” and I wondered why, after that first experience, where the number of IBM folk, all of whom were useless, simply drowning out my company’s more knowledgeable colleagues! IBM proved themselves a poor provider of combined end-to-end software and hardware systems. The hardware was still solid, but the software development skill was just chronic! I’d never seen anything like it! They couldn’t even use UML and they owned Rational by that point. But why? In any event:

I said “No” IBM is not for me.
The culture is about climbing the tree, 
Regardless of what your competence be,
You don’t have it, so you buy it, or oppress it, you see.

Fast forward to recently and having finished up a contract of 6 months with a client I shall not name, I came across your organisation yet again! 200 of you! Large platform in financial services in a retail context. It seemed like I had been transported back to the early 1990s. Waterfall development, even though the digital site was being delivered by another party using BDD and Agile techniques, necessary for modern, competitive, fast response retail.

The politics was shambolic! Worse still, nobody had any financial services skill at all. Most didn’t know the UK FCA regulations and none had any mathematical skill whatsoever!

You, IBM, time and time again, used great pressure to oppress the people in your team. Mostly it was used to oppress those valuable few, as rare as diamond in the roughs, who were delivering the right thing, the right way, and then the ultimate insult to everyone, you benched them!

When IBM folk wanted more “teamwork” what they meant was they wanted you to do their work for them and they write it down, because they were out of their depth, were worried about their job and how their performance would be seen.

You fired the do-ers. The ones needed to make it work! You culled the wrong people, at the wrong time! Leaving the people who couldn’t do anything. Life in the Dead Sea seemed more likely. Indeed, tying their shoelaces seemed impossible at times, however good the shoes looked.

My dear IBM, you put a salesperson in charge of programme managing a multi-tens of millions of dollars programme. They were as impotent as they were incompetent. It was obvious that almost everyone on that team had zero development and architecture skill and had never worked with developers properly at all. What have they been doing in the years they have been with you? They were a disgrace! What were you thinking? This was an A-game programme and you dumped Z-listers in!

Then the blame game…

The politicians accused the doers. The doers closed up. So the politicians shouted and blamed more. The angst on the faces of both parties heavy with worry! Many left and quality suffered. Those previously delivering acceptable work now delivered shambles of documents, shambles, which had to be redone time and time again. Introducing waste, time and time again.

Sine the programme was now in dispute, you, in your desperate state, resorted to disgusting tactics to keep the few people, the less than a handful that had some knowledge, from leaving your organisation. Those that found other work, you offered them a promotion and a pay rise if they stayed. They did and you pulled the rug from under them. I’ve seen that before and I always went. No corporate has ever honoured that and IBM were no different. Indeed, if there was ever a company not to trust to do that, it’s IBM. I myself am single with no family and not related to you. To do that to those who have mouths to feed is an abhorrent abuse of power.

I said “No” IBM is not for me.
The culture is about climbing the tree, 
Regardless of what your competence be,
You don’t have it, so you buy it, or oppress it, you see.

What is interesting is that IBM has so lost it’s way! IBM, your organisation has 377,000 people in it, yet your revenue barely pays the salary of your average middle manager. You pin your hopes on Watson and AI, which employ some 10,000 people. Why don’t you just invest in your people to get them up to scratch in the first place? That shows you the level of waste you have existing within your walls that you take to every client you get and abuse with the “land and expand” consultancy paradigm that delivers nothing but pain, time and time again. Oh I’m sorry, apparently your staff are not allowed to call it “consultancy”, which is fine, as they were mostly process mappers with zero skill anyway — a job normally relegated to scribes or admins. So why was the client paying millions a month for just that? Where is the value? The client could do that themselves.

My dear IBM, despite having the 4th highest revenue each year, and being one of the biggest players in the industry, when it comes to the value you get from each employee, you’re dwarfed by the likes of Amazon, Google, Facebook, eBay and even Yahoo, the dog poop in a bag nobody wants to touch.

IBM GVA per employee (2015) compared to other tech companies

What is even worse is “bots” resort to putting fake reviews on GlassDoor to manage your reputation. Seriously, what is this?

To hide the plethora of bad reviews from employees past and present?

I said “No” IBM is not for me.
The culture is about climbing the tree, 
Regardless of what your competence be,
You don’t have it, so you buy it, or oppress it, you see.

I’m going to tell you something! There was one person in your team who stands out for their particularly disgusting attitude and behaviour. Blaming other people for that person’s failings. That person was already accused by their co-workers of being too emotional, which to me means nothing until you determine if that person is emotional because they are extremely incompetent and are struggling or they are supremely competent that they get frustrated by their work colleagues. It transpired it was the former.

What was worse is that when the lies appeared, sending different copies of the same document to different people to approve different things based on what they liked, they were bad enough. Though to then blame my client and our team for their failings was the most disgusting thing I’d ever experienced in my entire career. They were disingenuous, lacked any integrity at all and were wholly unprofessional. All on top of being extremely incompetent (which in my mind, breaks professionalism all on it’s own). They put pressure on even their own colleagues, so some physically moved desks to get away from them! However, maybe this is the sort of thing IBM actually want to nurture? A company full of incompetent idiots that commoditize the lives and labours of workers to ship one out, one in. What sort of culture is that? How stupid or unaware does the top have to be that IBM’s world is crumbling around it and cost accounting is not going fix this damn thing?

I said “No” IBM is not for me.
The culture is about climbing the tree, 
Regardless of what your competence be,
You don’t have it, so you buy it, or oppress it, you see.

Believe me IBM, I have had countless conversations with people who were and are capable and left you because you disgusted them as much as you disgust me. There are similar folk you fired for the wrong reasons. What is amazing is that you have absolutely no self-awareness! Sure, market your way to another mediocre offering. Like SoftLayer by its competition, AWS, Google and Azure, it’ll be regarded as a joke offering! It’s a toy! Get with it!

For me, I will be following Queensland’s lead and banning the use of IBM at any of my Enterprise Architecture clients. You deliver on time and on budget less than 10% of the time. You are more likely to waste money than deliver any value at all. Why would I want any of my clients to go through the same thing you put your own clients through? Forget it!

In the words of every good UK bouncer out there.

“You’re Barred!”

Yours Faithfully

Mr Ethar Alali

P.S. Those people who’s lives you made hell? When you treat them as human being, they are seen as human beings. Ergo…

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