IBM shuffles Lotus executives, creates new biz units

IBM moves come less than a week before annual Lotusphere conference

IBM Tuesday reorganized the structure of its Software Group, including moving Lotus General Manager Bob Picciano back to a leadership role in sales, inserting Alistair Rennie as the general manager of Lotus Software and bringing back former Lotus General Manager Mike Rhodin to head a re-structured business unit.

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The moves come less than a week before IBM opens its annual Lotusphere conference, its biggest customer event of the year. The news was released on the popular blog of Ed Brill, director of product management for Lotus Software.

IBM Software will now have two distinct business units, according to Brill. The first is a solutions group headed by Rhodin, who was Lotus general manager from 2005 until 2008 when Picciano took over. Rhodin has been serving as general managter of IBM North East Europe since 2008.

The second group will focus on middleware and is being headed by Robert LeBlanc, who had been responsible for overall sales strategy and management and led a 16,000-person sales force.

Picciano will now head up worldwide sales for IBM Software. He was vice president of sales before he moved into the Lotus general manager role.

Brill said on his blog, "For the first time, the sales executive for IBM software overall has Lotus yellow in his blood, and that can only be a good thing for the entire market."

The Lotus Software Group will now be headed by Rennie, whose previous title was vice president of development and technical support. Rennie, whose successor in development has not been named, is listed as a presenter for the Lotusphere opening keynote address, which is headlined by Picciano.

"I am humbled by the responsibility of leading Lotus," Rennie wrote in the comment section of Brill's blog. "We have made tremendous progress on all fronts from technology to Lotus Knows. The role of the community is more important than ever and you have my commitment to keep the channel as wide open as Bob has."

Rennie did not answer e-mail asking for comment on his promotion.

Also on Brill's blog, Picciano wrote, "I will move to my new role knowing full well that Lotus is in the best of hands with Alistair and the team."

Lotus is no stranger to general manager changes over the past decade, but the moves are reflective more of IBM's culture of moving executive around the business than on discontent.

But Lotus has been playing catch-up on the collaboration front with Microsoft and others even though Lotus products, such as Connections, have shown that the company is much further ahead of the curve from a technical perspective then its main competitor.

Over the past year, Lotus has been building out its online services strategy anchored by LotusLive and trying to tie it to its on-premises software lineup, including products such as Notes and Quickr, which is a challenger to Microsoft's SharePoint.

Andrew Pollack, who is founder of consulting firm Northern Collaborative Technologies and has been working with Lotus Notes since 1991, said on Brill's blog, "I've heard good things about Alistair Rennie, particularly from those who've worked for him. I consider that a very good sign." And he praised Picciano and his work at Lotus, but he was not so keen on the new organizational structure.

"Moving Lotus under solutions is not something I'm happy about, particularly since 'Products' is now even more obviously focused on WebSphere under LeBlanc, and this looks more and more to me as a continued devaluation of the core products. Further, I've never seen a Lotus specific services group that I could speak positively about. Lotus Consulting?"

He also reiterated his previous clashes with Rhodin, "I've made no secret that I didn't consider Mike R. good for Lotus," but said he hopes that Rhodin can change his mind this time around.

Brill said on his blog Rennie has been "driving the vision component of what you'll hear in/from Orlando next week." He also said the new Lotus general manager has a knack for seeing the big picture and comprehending the details.

Brill said of Picciano's "legacy" will include "the wave we are going to ride into Lotusphere next week. You'll see what I mean soon."

Picciano's tenure was marked by listening to customer feedback and acting on it, and by his tough stance against competitors, especially Microsoft. Last year, he called out Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and COO Kevin Turner saying they were "blowing a lot of hot wind from Washington" about stealing customers from Lotus.

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