By John McCormick 

International Business Machines Corp. said it is restructuring its sales organization, streamlining how it classifies customers.

The new sales structure -- which cuts the number of customer groups to two from 50 -- is designed to make it easier to do business with the company, Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president for global markets, told CIO Journal. The changes, she said, also will better support the company's effort to capitalize on hybrid cloud computing, in which companies use a combination of their own data centers and computing resources leased from others and accessed online.

The changes, announced internally on Monday, are part of a broader series of changes under Chief Executive Arvind Krishna, who took over last year with a mandate to accelerate growth. IBM has since announced plans to spin off a part of the company and refocus operations on growth markets such as hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence.

IBM is putting all of its customers into two groups. One segment includes large, global customers looking for an integrated set of IBM products and services. This group will consist of about 500 clients. IBM said it would provide these companies, many of which are looking to run hybrid cloud computer environments, with dedicated technical and business experts.

The other segment includes customers looking to IBM for particular products or services. These organizations will be served by IBM sales representatives who specialize in the technology or service in which the customer has an interest, the company said.

The company said its sales team will be trained as part of its continuing education efforts and that there are no planned job or cost cuts associated with the move. The company declined to say how large its sales team is.

IBM has appointed technical sales leaders for its 20 or so geographic markets, such as various U.S. regions, Canada and Japan, to oversee and coordinate its efforts. The changes are under way, but the company didn't provide a time frame for when the process will be complete.

Previously, IBM had separate sales teams for its various software, systems and services, which were further broken down by geographic market, client-company size and industry.

Catherine Luelo, senior vice president and chief information officer at Air Canada, said IBM is already serving the airline with a dedicated team of experts. She said the new sales strategy should allow other large customers to tap into IBM's significant and broad business and technology expertise.

"As an integrated account, you have the opportunity, I think, to access capability across their global scale," she said.

Tim Crawford, an adviser to CIOs, said it isn't easy to deploy hybrid clouds, because of the different systems, software and vendors involved. He runs a firm called AVOA, based in the Los Angeles area.

Companies are looking for teams of experts who can help them figure out how to bring all the pieces together. "I think [this] is where IBM could really succeed," he said.

IBM has said hybrid cloud services represent a $1 trillion business opportunity and the company has been bulking up its offering.

The company said revenue for the first nine months of 2020 totaled $53.3 billion, a decrease of 4% year to year, and that it is looking to boost growth.

IBM in October said it was spinning off a unit that manages clients' IT infrastructure -- and accounts for nearly a quarter of its sales and staff -- to focus on growth opportunities such as hybrid cloud computing and AI.

Write to John McCormick at john.mccormick@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 05, 2021 20:51 ET (01:51 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.