Services drive suits Big Blue’s new GM

It is perhaps appropriate, given its increasing industry revenue focus on services, that IBM's new New Zealand general manager, Ken Symington, comes from that background. He's already made one change - and an important one for a local operation. The services group, under Barry Armstrong, now reports directly to Symington rather than to Australia. And subsidiary company Centurion has been integrated into the services business, allowing consolidation because of complementary skills

It is perhaps appropriate, given its increasing industry revenue focus on services, that IBM’s new New Zealand general manager, Ken Symington, comes from that background.

He’s already made one change — and an important one for a local operation. The services group, under Barry Armstrong, now reports directly to Symington rather than to Australia.

And subsidiary company Centurion has been integrated into the services business, allowing consolidation because of complementary skills.

Symington has also begun a consulting practice, which so far has three staff. There’s more to come, including, inevitably, changes in the way IBM goes to market.

“In any new role you bring in different ideas. As I review the business there will be different ways to go to market.”

That and other decisions will be made over the next few months. “I’ve only been here for a short period and I’m trying to get my arms around the business,” he says.

Symington, 42, has had a lifetime career at IBM. He joined the company in 1979 and spent his first 10 years there in a number of management positions, mainly to do with product and support.

In 1987 he moved to Tokyo as systems manager for product and support, then returned to Australia as Victoria branch manager. He became executive assistant to the managing director in 1991, then spent two years as a finance and insurance account executive.

There was a period as general manager of technical operations for Australia and New Zealand — again in product and support — then in 1997 he was back in Tokyo as general manager of small and medium business services Asia-Pacific.

One thing that won’t change is the management model IBM uses. He is, in his words, here to execute that model, which he thinks works well.

He’s not prepared to predict how 1998 will pan out financially after a disastrous 1997 in which the company lost $28 million. But ... “the business is healthy”.

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