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January 5, 2005

Borman out, Shearer in as iSeries general manager

Mike Borman, the newly named general manager of IBM's iSeries business, has been replaced by Mark Shearer, who up until now has been the head of marketing and strategy for IBM's Systems and Technology Group.

By CBR Staff Writer

Borman became the general manager of the iSeries back in late July 2004 in the aftermath of a game of IBM executive musical chairs when one of Big Blue’s top execs, Mike Lawrie, left the company to head up sales at Siebel Systems, the largest supplier of customer relationship management software in the world.

Shearer’s appointment to the same post is the ultimate result of a similar scale departure. When John Swainson, who was IBM’s top software sales executive, left that job several months ago to become CEO of beleaguered software giant Computer Associates, it was only a matter of time before musical chairs would start again.

Borman’s tenure as general manager of the iSeries was probably the shortest one on record – Bob Dies had a similarly short tenure as general manager of the AS/400 Division back in 1995 – but Borman, as a salesman, seemed to understand that what the iSeries needed more than anything was to be sold, and sold aggressively based on its strengths.

While Borman was unacquainted with the modern OS/400 platform, and made no bones about it when he talked to the OS/400 community, he did understand the key differentiations of the iSeries and seemed intent on boosting sales of the platform. Under his short tenure, IBM did initiate a television marketing campaign for the iSeries, something that the vocal members of the AS/400 and iSeries installed base have been trying to coax Big Blue to do for several years. While those television ads do not focus as much on the iSeries as many would like, it was something.

The exact same reason that everyone at IBM is saying that Borman is the right guy for the top software sales position at IBM is why many in the iSeries community were happy to have Borman at the helm of the iSeries: he is first and foremost a salesman, and he was committed to the idea of actually selling the iSeries based on its strengths in the market. Still, you can’t blame Borman for jumping into Swainson’s shoes.

IBM’s Software Group is the second largest software business in the world, behind Microsoft, with $15 billion in sales and pre-tax gross margins of around 25%. While that software business is only growing at 5% a year, it is the core profit engine for the company, and it is understandable why IBM chose Borman, who has been a general manager of the RS/6000 Division as well as the head of IBM’s PartnerWorld business partner channel, for the top software sales job. With the iSeries business at around $2 billion and declining around 20% to 25% in 2004, and still facing a very aggressive midrange competitive landscape, it is understandable why he jumped to the Software Group position.

Shearer has been intimately involved with IBM’s server development and marketing teams, which Borman was not; Shearer was characterized by an IBM spokeperson who confirmed his new job as Bill Zeitler’s right hand man. Zeitler, of course, is the long-time senior vice president and group executive in charge of IBM’s Systems and Technology Group (which includes the formerly separate server and technology groups), who has been a general manager for both the AS/400 and the zSeries business units in his long career with IBM. That IBM spokesperson, well aware of what the sensitive OS/400 community might feel about such a quick change in leadership, said that the move was one of replacing strength with strength and was really precipitated by IBM’s need to replace Swainson – nothing more.

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This is Shearer’s first job as a general manager of a full division at IBM, and he has kept a relatively low profile. According to inside sources familiar with Shearer’s tenure within the server unit, he was one of the key executives who pushed for the convergence of the OS/400-based AS/400 and AIX-based RS/6000 server lines, which were renamed the iSeries and the pSeries, respectively, in October 2000. The most current iterations of the Power-based servers are called the eServer i5 and the eServer p5, and they represent the most converged Power server box that Big Blue has taken to market – including hardware technologies, software technologies, and parity pricing for components.

Shearer has a BA in economics from Princeton University, and got his start at IBM in 1978 as a systems engineer trainee. He has held numerous sales, marketing, and management positions in the coveted Wall Street operations of Big Blue. In 1992, IBM sent him to Tokyo for a two-year stint running its public sector operations in the Asia/Pacific region; he spent another two years running the telecommunications and media sectors in Asia for IBM. In 1996, he was brought back to the States as vice president of network computing and business development in the Global Services group, and was soon thereafter put in charge of setting up services for small and midsized businesses and given the title general manager of SMB Services. In late 1998, Shearer was put in charge of marketing for the Americas region, and in January 2000 he moved into Server Group to handle marketing and product development across the different server units within IBM.

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