Agenda Setters: Where are they now... Sam Palmisano

Has the IBM CEO reached his peak?
Written by silicon.com staff, Contributor

Has the IBM CEO reached his peak?

As the countdown begins to silicon.com's seventh annual Agenda Setters poll of tech's 50 most influential individuals, it is time to look back at those who held top 10 positions in 2005. Today it's the turn of last year's number five, IBM CEO Sam Palmisano.

Even without its PC division these days, IBM remains a tech giant in numerous ways and the man who is at the helm stands a good chance of making this year's top 50 rankings. Or does he?

Sure, the company has spent the last 12 months splashing cash on big software acquisitions (as have rivals) while still bringing in the sales from some big deals, especially for IT and other services. But is Palmisano the driver?

A year ago our Agenda Setters panel of experts liked the way IBM Global Services had put itself ahead of the competing field, alongside Accenture. A market snapshot now arguably doesn't give those two the same lead.

There is even the view that IBM will have to decide whether to play in IT outsourcing as well as business process outsourcing (BPO). Doing both could be hard. It could be the latter that gets the nod.

So will Palmisano become the man who took IBM away from PCs... and then IT outsourcing too? Some would shudder at the thought.

And with HP's PC division apparently on the up, especially against rivals such as Dell and, ahem, Lenovo, which took over IBM's PC concerns, there is a question mark over whether the strategic decisions have been right.

Some would say it's all a bit unfair: praise Palmisano's generals for what goes right, blame him for what goes wrong. But then no one expects to be cut any slack when you're starting point is the man running computing's most venerable brand.

One final point: a long-standing Agenda Setters approach is to ask where the individual would be if he or she is taken out of their current position. This IBM veteran of 23 years, who one time played backing sax for The Temptations while in high school, could arguably do lots of things. But he's also arguably already reached his peak.

Find out where more of last year's winners are now:

silicon.com's Agenda Setters panel, made up again of CIOs, analysts, VCs, consultants, lawyers, academics and other experts, convenes in September with the results revealed at the end of the month. If you want to pass on your comments for our experts - about Sam Palmisano or any other contender - drop us an email at editorial@silicon.com.

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