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Highlights—December 14, 2013

  • StreetInsider.com: Cowen Downgrades IBM to Market Perform. Excerpt: Cowen downgraded IBM from Outperform to Market Perform with a price target of $165 from $234. A quarterly survey by analyst Moshe Katri showed IBM fell from 1 to 3 in net project workload and execution/delivery. The survey showed skill base levels decline as well. As a result, Katri sees risk to IBM's U.S. revenue growth outlook and IT outsourcing revenue base. $100 billion in contracts will be renegotiated in 2014, and IBM will face competition from India.
  • BusinessInsider: Shareholder Sues IBM For Allegedly Hiding China Risks Amid NSA Spying Scandal. By Jonathan Stempel. Excerpts: IBM Corp has been sued by a shareholder who accused it of concealing how its ties to what became a major U.S. spying scandal reduced business in China and ultimately caused its market value to plunge more than $12 billion.

    IBM lobbied Congress hard to pass a law letting it share personal data of customers in China and elsewhere with the U.S. National Security Agency in a bid to protect its intellectual property rights, according to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

    The plaintiff in the complaint, Louisiana Sheriffs' Pension & Relief Fund, said this threatened IBM hardware sales in China, particularly given a program known as Prism that let the NSA spy on that country through technology companies such as IBM. ...

    The lawsuit names IBM, Chief Executive Virginia Rometty and Chief Financial Officer Mark Loughridge as defendants, and says they should be held liable for the company's failure to reveal sooner the risks of its lobbying and its NSA ties.

    "These allegations are ludicrous and irresponsible and IBM will vigorously defend itself in court," IBM spokesman Doug Shelton said in an e-mail.

  • InformationWeek: 2014 BI Outlook: Who's Hot, Who's Not. InformationWeek 2014 Analytics and Business Intelligence Survey finds Tableau rising, Actuate, IBM Cognos, and MicroStrategy sliding. By Doug Henschen. Excerpts: Analytics and business intelligence consumers want easy-to-use products that make data access and data analysis a self-service proposition. This is a key finding of our just-released 2014 InformationWeek Analytics, Business Intelligence, and Information Management Survey. It's not surprising, because ease of use and self-service have been high on the wish list in our annual survey for the last four years. It's also no surprise to see vendors associated with ease of use gaining ground.

    Which analytics and BI products are you using, planning to use, or evaluating? We've put this question to survey respondents every year, so we can track changes over time. The biggest gainer in current or planned use compared to last year's results was Tableau Software while the biggest slides were seen by Actuate, IBM Cognos, and MicroStrategy. ...

    The most notable decreases in current and planned use from the 2013 to 2014 survey were tied to Actuate (down 8 points to 6% reporting current or planned use), IBM Cognos (down 7 points to 26% reporting current or planned use), and MicroStrategy (down 5 points to 9% current or planned use).

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues, Medical & Extend Health message board: "Blue Harmony" by Kathi Cooper. Full excerpt: The Alliance@IBM heard that the Blue Harmony Project will be shut down. If any of you work on that project please let The Alliance know at www.allianceibm.org.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues, Medical & Extend Health message board: "RE: Blue Harmony" by "trexibmer". Excerpt: In short Blue Harmony was another IBM mega project that was supposed to streamline the infrastructure (software platforms, procedures [accounting, financial, etc.], etc.) to make IBM more streamlined and efficient. It got BIG after Y2K was over. But like most IBM mega projects came mega co$t due to bureaucracy and the project management.

    In my honest opinion, it meant all well and good, but it was too encompassing and ponderous to come to complete fruition. ...

    The constant inane cost cutting and RAs certainly couldn't have helped any Blue Harmony for IBM.

  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • Great experience! Need to be enthusiastic about your career and willing to build relationships!” Business Transformation Consultant (Current Employee), Johannesburg (South Africa). I have been working at IBM full-time for less than a year. Pros: Great learning opportunities, travel throughout South Africa and Africa, great senior managers. Cons: Office morale, specific individual's negative influence, employee welfare. Advice to Senior Management: Please consider bettering the employee welfare within IBM! Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend. I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Great” Anonymous Employee (Current Employee), Bangalore (India). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 5 years. Pros: Great place to work; work-life balance is at peak level; you will have enough time to learn many new things. Cons: Diversity penetrations is so deep you have real challenges in dealing such diversity environment especially if you are working in a support project. Advice to Senior Management: IT. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend. I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Great company. Your (sic) exposed to every part of a business and can always find somebody that knows the answer.” Client Executive in Ibm.com (Former Employee), Sydney (Australia). I worked at IBM full-time for more than 3 years. Pros: Put me through a great sales training course. Invested heavily in me through corporate training events and mentors were great. Stood the test of time in the technology space. Lots of smart people that want to do good work. Very experiences corporate types. Great thought leadership. Does work that matters. Cons: Systems, Process, Culture needs to change to be more like Google, Facebook, Linkedin. Established culture where a more entrepreneur approach to sales might work better. Advice to Senior Management: Loosen up the IBM stereotype. Take risks. Be more innovative in sales and business approach. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend
    • Just another headcount” IT Specialist (Current Employee), Melbourne (Australia). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 3 years. Pros: Volunteer group; people (some of them). Cons: Salary below market value; too many red tape processes; only care about cost cutting. Advice to Senior Management: No more fat to trim, how about cutting your own pay packets. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Great place to start your career” Hardware Engineer (Former Employee), Poughkeepsie, NY. I worked at IBM full-time for more than 8 years. Pros: Really smart colleagues, interesting projects if you get on right one flexible hours, work from home, they don't count vacation time. Cons: Because management tends to be IBM lifers, they don't understand what's trendy in technology outside IBM, consequently, the company's not as innovative as it once was. Advice to Senior Management: Get a CEO who's not from sales for a change! Maybe a former engineer!
    • Dinosaur” Systems Support Representative (Current Employee), Phoenix, AZ. I have been working at IBM as a contractor for more than a year. Pros: IBM seems to have such a foot hold and powerful name that it will likely never die. The company offers a fair wage. Cons: However, the company has not seen the growth it would like in the past few years and I personally think that its current stagnation will be the new norm. IBM's services are more expensive than many of its competitors for no reason other than they are IBM. As new solutions begin to form for small and large businesses alike I fear for IBM's vitality. The benefits are slim, and with so many employees working remotely, the few useful benefits are difficult to capitalize on. Advice to Senior Management: Comprehensive training on the use of tools an employee is expected to use before they are told to use them. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.
    • Use it as a training ground and leave for better sights.” Associate Partner (Current Employee) I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: I have been working for IBM (PWC then BIS/BCS and now GBS) for over 10 years in 3 continents.
      • Truly global: Many opportunities to work/interact with people from all over the globe. Many opportunities to relocate and be part of global/international projects.
      • Great people: Lots of diverse, bright and interesting individuals that help build a vast network of professionals.
      • Learning opportunities: there is a wealth of material, SME networks, etc. you can tap into, if you are entirely independent and willing to put in the effort.
      • Big Machine: when you understand how the system works, you can use it to accomplish things that would be very difficult to do in other companies.
      • Secure: Once you have been hired as a non-exec and have passed probation and if you work outside the US, chances of getting fired are ultra slim.

      Cons:

      • Overworked: My life changed when I reached the Senior Manager and then Associate Partner levels. The hours are ridiculous and sometimes unbearable (and I am excellent at time management). Hours are similar to MBB with half the income, more than other near-Ivy consultancies with more or less equal pay and more than most IT firms less the decent bonus (even TCS and the like).
      • Too many layers: Many people are hiding in the machine with fluffy roles (that often start with "Global" and end with "Lead") and ambiguous targets.
      • Big Machine: Almost everything takes longer than it should due to the sheer number of inconsistent processes.
      • Long-term strategy: Either there is none or even Partners don't know what it is.
      • Leadership: the leadership training is obsolete and fosters cookie cutter middle managers. It is hard to be supportive of some leadership messages coming from HQ.
      • Pay: Behind market value in most cases, especially considering the Investment Banker's hours.

      Advice to Senior Management:

      • Define a clear and detailed internal strategy that goes beyond four keywords
      • Share the strategy with the staff and sell it to them rather than sending PowerPoint decks open to any interpretation.
      • Reshape client-centric and employee-centric cultures (the best of IBM is its people; when they leave their work usually disappears with them).
      • Retain, attract and develop senior leaders; don't just hire loads of graduates with the promise that they will progress quickly; most of them end up leaving for the competition after three years to align their income with the job they were promoted into too soon.
    • I'll Never Put On A Life-Jacket Again” Anonymous Employee (Current Employee). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 5 years. Pros: Work-life balance is spotty and intermittent (depending on week/assignment), but, in general, the 'virtual workforce' telecommuter arrangement helps more than it hurts. Benefits are average (possibly just above-average, though they shrink a little each year). The company is huge—as in bigger-than-most-military-forces huge—which means there are many nooks and crannies to explore (new different projects, new different teams/divisions, possibly new different jobs/managers, if you play the transfer game shrewdly). Almost any expense is reimbursable, so long as it isn't blatantly fraudulent, and so long as you cultivate the right relationship with your level-one and level-two managers. Despite all the "company X is leaving" and "company Y is suing" news-traffic, the IBM name does still seem to carry reputation and weight on your resume.

      Cons: Employee morale is as bad as I've seen it. Barring (very) occasional chats with one's immediate supervisor(s), an IBM employee basically stands alone within the organization. There is little or no assistance available to find clients or work placement. There is little or no assistance to meet revenue/utilization targets. There is little or no budget for tools or training. There is little or no 'human element' whatsoever as higher-management has become laser-focused on short-term financial results to the exclusion of all else.

      These 'isolated-by-myself' factors have combined with the '400,000 employee size' dynamics to yield some strange cultural behaviors. Bureaucracy, of course, is rampant; IBM boasts an unending series of you-must-go-to-this-webpage and you-must-fill-out-this-form and you-must-get-this-manager's-approval obstacles, all of which are frustrating, some of which are impassable. It is also possible to 'out-of-sight out-of-mind' yourself into unemployment, if you're not careful (must stay visible, must initiate communications and work-placement(s) so others don't forget your name/face).

      Thirdly, and worst, a distasteful herd-of-sheep mentality has manifested: a sort of I'll-keep-my-head-down, I'll-do-the-absolute-minimum, I'll-stay-two-steps-up-from-the-bottom reaction, in the hopes that "it's a big company, they'll find someone else to fire" or "I don't have to outrun the bear, I only have to outrun the slowest member of the pack so the bear will eat him/her instead." To follow my Quint-and-the-USS-Indianapolis title above, employees are waiting while the sharks circle, never knowing when the next sailor will be bitten, never knowing if/when they will be rescued (or outsourced), no longer holding their heads up high, no longer daring to hope. I fear THIS will eventually kill IBM as we know it today.

      Advice to Senior Management: The current 'vision' seems to be a futuristic, mechanized, globally-distributed IBM, drawing cheapest resources and lowest tax implications from multiple regions simultaneously, with no cumbersome face-to-face overhead and no personal element in any one location. This model needs to be fundamentally re-examined. A "what we wanted" versus "what we actually got" evaluation will probably reveal wide divergence from this goal-state.

      You must (MUST) throttle back (even if only slightly) on momentary financial success, and re-invest in the culture/workforce. This action clearly jars against executive/shareholder expectations, but there's simply no way around it. To continue down this (current) path will yield a downward spiral with shrinking revenues (already spanning 7+ fiscal quarters), discontent customer breaches/lawsuits, mass talent attrition, and progressively tarnished brand/reputation. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.

    • IBM” Anonymous Employee (Current Employee). Pros: Good environment, career growth is really good. Cons: No cons; management and team everything is fabulous.
    • “Simply NOT working” Not Worth the Risk of Revealing IT (Current Employee), Rome (Italy). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 5 years. Pros: SLOW. Luckily, 'Slow' in everything means slow also in destroying values and personal skills (which you need to have developed elsewhere), so usually you are given a bit of time before you become officially mincemeat for the company. Cons: Ridiculous criteria for management selection and retention: talent and skills are usually a nuisance for the company. No attention for the market needs and trends. Overall disturbing arrogance of managers with little exceptions in- and out-bound. Advice to Senior Management: No advice, beyond redemption. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • IT specialist” IT Specialist (Current Employee). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than a year. Pros: Good people, good environment, good training. Cons: Process, process, everything is process. No one cares about employees. Advice to Senior Management: Less management; more care for employee. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • OK company. No confidence.” Lead (Current Employee), New York, NY. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Great co-workers, great work-life balance. Cons: Even though I was a good performer, I felt like I was going to be let go eventually. Never felt safe. Everyone was demoralized. We made the best of the situation, as future layoffs were out of our hands. I'm sure IBM is going to continue to do well, and eventually let 90% of US employee go. Advice to Senior Management: Stop downsizing US Headcount. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.
    • Great company. A lot of pressure” Sales (Current Employee), Dallas, TX. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 5 years. Pros: The sky is the limit. If there is a dream you want to accomplish at IBM there is someone there that can help you get there. Cons: Management has a tendency to manage up instead of down. Currently a lot of pressure to perform for the market. Advice to Senior Management: Develop your employees. They really are all you have. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend.
    • Worst company in the world” Managing Consultant (Current Employee), London, England (UK). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 3 years. Pros: None, unless you believe that working with and for a bunch of morons is a benefit.

      Cons: There is a huge difference in the workforce from those companies that IBM has acquired to those who've joined themselves. One group has an idea of how the real world works, the other doesn't.

      The place is full of people who don't care about their careers/technology/customers and are just there to count the days until they get their pension.

      I would say avoid this company at all costs especially if you're young/graduate as you will develop the wrong attitude to work.

      Advice to Senior Management: Listen to your customers and employees. When they tell you something is wrong don't just bury your head in the sand; take some ownership and do something about it. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.

    • Decent workplace” Sales Manager (Current Employee). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 3 years. Pros: Great training and growth potential if you network properly. Cons: Company's culture continues to deteriorate. Executives are out of touch and have little to no relationship with their employees. Company continues to trim jobs to hit EPS while consistently missing revenues. Advice to Senior Management: collapse the org chart. Far too many VPs that haven't talked to clients in years. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Elephants can dance, when they want too...” Account Executive (Current Employee), Toronto, ON (Canada). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 5 years. Pros: Intellectually challenging workload. Great to be part of such a large organization, very well respected in the industry. Cons: Hard to get new approaches realized, to meet the evolving market need. Its size is both a strength and weakness. The old ways of interacting with clients don't work; IBM needs to ensure it attracts new blood to challenge accepted norms. Advice to Senior Management: Spend every second engaging with the business side of your clients rather than a maniacal focus on IT. This is the the new decision makers; hence attract customer facing personnel who are technically savvy, whilst resonate with the business. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Going downhill for most employees” Information Developer (Current Employee). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Flexible working environment for some of us. Cons: I work with some rather unethical and untalented people. It didn't used to be that way. Advice to Senior Management: Whatever happened to manager evaluations by employees? First-line managers are not scrutinized the way they should be, especially with recent changes in management structure. Elimination of second lines means nobody is really watching the first lines, and some of them really need the boot. Ginni, I'm sorry that you haven't been able to change the culture the way you intended. I was really hoping our first female CEO would rock, but telling stories and chasing wild ducks is not helping me respect you. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.
    • Great heritage poor management” Senior Consultant (Current Employee). Pros: Leading edge innovative solutions, great for growing your experience and skills. Cons: Need to work hard to get on good projects. You join and you get a foot into the door, then they hold you personally responsible for finding your own work. Very limited support given. Advice to Senior Management: Humility and do walk the talk. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • IBM is a company with truly global reach and a broad selection of career opportunities for all levels of professionals.” Software Development Manager (Current Employee). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Flexibility, breadth of opportunity, technology leader, reputation, strong culture of vision and values. Cons: Giant bureaucracy, pillared business units, performance management program is dated. Advice to Senior Management: Radically reinvent the employee management structures for performance, recognition, and progression. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend. I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • IBM Living in the Past” Anonymous Employee (Former Employee). I worked at IBM full-time for more than 8 years. Pros: Big company with lots of resources, people, locations, and opportunities. Image has been that it is the best of breed.

      Cons: Very senior management more interested in driving stock price up for their own personal gain than growing a company which the staff and clients will admire. Many of their worldwide studies are based on bogus data that they create to convince the world they are the best and on top of the trends. If you compare it to others studies of the same companies, leaders, industries, etc. it does not match or even come close.

      Advice to Senior Management: Be honest, be interested in the staff and be competitive. It's hard to make the "riches" you want from your stock options if you drive down the stock price and drive out the employees. You will be sitting in plush offices for a much shorter time with a smaller company, lower revenue and retained earnings, and people to do the work. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.

    • The elephant is running in the morass deeper—how to get out is quite unclear?” Senior Consultant (Current Employee), Vienna (Austria). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 8 years. Pros: - international company, many "good" coworkers, room to learn new things.

      Cons: 1st line management does not care much about employees; senior execs look just at stock valuation; continuous layoff threats (resource action); hardware business uncertain how to continue ---> strategy? New acquisitions don't work well outside of USA. Initiatives at personal level are usually turned down. In European countries, IBM just tries to fulfill minimum legal and tax requirements.

      Advice to Senior Management: Look for your talent otherwise you will stick around with the "leftovers". Shareholder value is important, but not the only goal for a prosperous, long term corporation. Live what you talk in marketing (read your Kenexa marketing material and also show that you take it as it is written). No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.

    • Where careers go to die” Presales IT Architect (Former Employee), Research Triangle Park, NC, I worked at IBM full-time for more than 3 years. Pros: Secure employment, good opportunity for lateral moves to learn new things. Cons: Everyone is treated the same. If you want to be compensated for outstanding contributions this isn't the place for you. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • IBM is a company with truly global reach and a broad selection of career opportunities for all levels of professionals” Software Development Manager (Current Employee). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Flexibility, breadth of opportunity, technology leader, reputation, strong culture of vision and values. Cons: Giant bureaucracy, pillared business units, performance management program is dated. Advice to Senior Management: Radically reinvent the employee management structures for performance, recognition, and progression, Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend. I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company,
    • IBM GBS-BAO Sr Consultant”. Senior Managing Consultant (Current Employee), Seattle, WA. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Generally very competent colleagues, huge educational resources and intellectual capital. In over 10 years I experienced a huge growth in my technical and professional consulting skills. Cons: Challenging to advance your career. Very stingy on compensation increases. Many years with none, despite excellent utilization and project performance. Advice to Senior Management: Help your employees know you value them. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend – I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company
  • Glassdoor IBM Canada reviews
  • Washington Post: So you want to be a scientist? Your best bet for making money is the drug industry. By Jeff Chiu. Excerpt: In the 1967 film classic “The Graduate,” a businessman offers a single word of career advice to the young character played by Dustin Hoffman: “Plastics.” Today, if a college graduate has an interest in science, the word might be: “Drugs.” The Scientist magazine’s annual salary survey shows a clear leader in earnings: Those working in the drug industry average $162,715 a year, compared with $95,829 among scientists working in the other life sciences. Not far behind those in pharmaceuticals were those working in the biotechnology industry, with an average annual salary of $150,301. Last place went to molecular biologists in academic jobs; their average was $71,050.
  • Pew Research Center: Among 38 nations, U.S. is the outlier when it comes to paid parental leave. By Gretchen Livingston. Excerpts: Of the 38 countries represented, the U.S. is the only one that does not mandate any paid leave for new mothers. In comparison, Estonia offers about two years of paid leave, and Hungary and Lithuania offer one-and-a-half years or more of fully-paid leave. The median amount of fully-paid time off available to a mom for the birth of a child is about five-to-six months. ...

    Then, there’s also protected leave, which essentially allows new parents to be away from their job to care for their baby, without fear of losing that job. Along with Mexico, the U.S. offers the smallest amount of leave protection related to the birth of a child among these 38 countries—12 weeks. In the U.S., this is a result of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which was enacted in 1993, and guarantees job security for those who have been employed for at least a year, and who work for an organization with 50 or more employees.

  • Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert. This week's headlines:
    • Budget Agreement Averts a Shutdown, but More Work Remains
    • Alliance Takes Action on the Budget
    • Petition to Eliminate the Unfair GPO and WEP Provisions of the Social Security Act
    • Third Way Think Tank Generates a Backlash within Democratic Party
    • Come to the Alliance’s Convention, April 28 – May 1, 2014, at Bally's Hotel Las Vegas
  • The Smirking Chimp: Why Don't Kids Want to Study Engineering? Because Engineering Friggin' Sucks. By Ted Rall. Excerpts: According to a survey, nearly 90% of 16- and 17-year-olds have no interest in a STEM (science/technology/engineering/math) career.

    The climate is crashing, the NSA is tracking our porn, and the 99% haven’t gotten a raise in decades, but the party organ of America’s ruling class is truly, awfully worried about our imminent STEMlessness. A lot.

    “The number of students who want to pursue engineering or computer science jobs is actually falling, precipitously, at just the moment when the need for those workers is soaring,” writes The Editorial Board of The New York Times, which is composed of editors no one has heard of, yet whose opinions we are all supposed to care about. “Within five years, there will be 2.4 million STEM job openings,” write The Editors. ...

    STEM employment is sporadic (they say “cyclical”). What’s the point of playing it safe when it’s not, well, safe? The STEM major you pick as a freshman may easily be obsolete by the time you hit the senior year job fair. Even if not, it’s extremely unlikely your chosen scientific field will provide steady employment for years to come. Currently, as the Powers That Be say they need STEMmers, unemployment is sky high among STEM professionals. As of 2009, nearly 9% of electrical engineers were jobless. Oh, and it turns out that STEM majors actually don’t earn more than their liberal arts counterparts.

    “Indeed, science and engineering careers in the U.S. appear to be relatively unattractive” compared with other career paths, Michael Teitelbaum of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in New York, which funds basic scientific, economic and civic research, testified to Congress in 2007.

    High-school students know what’s up. They hear from older siblings how hard it is to graduate from engineering school. They watch their friends’ parents lose their jobs from supposedly “safe” STEM outfits. They’re not going to change their minds until reality improves. ...

    If America wants STEM majors from America, it ought to stop importing them from overseas. “When the companies say they can’t hire anyone [for STEM jobs], they mean that they can’t hire anyone at the wage they want to pay,” Jennifer Hunt, a Rutgers University labor economist, said in 2012. So they outsource STEM jobs overseas and game the work visa program to import cheaper foreign scientists. “Tech companies that import temporary workers, mainly recent graduates from India, commonly discard more expensive, experienced employees in their late 30s or early 40s, often forcing them, as Ron Hira and other labor-force researchers note, to train their replacements as they exit,” reports the Columbia Journalism Review. Until STEM unemployment among Americans is 0%, Congress ought to get rid of the visa program. ...

    Math and science aren’t boring. But asking people to dedicate their lives to careers that won’t pay off is dumb.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site

Job Cut Reports

  • Comment 12/10/13: This part of the Bridgestone/IBM lawsuit is disturbing. It appears job cuts and offshoring are some of the reasons: Bridgestone states that IBM "assigned individuals, including the chief technical architect for the project, who did not possess the proper knowledge, skill, education, training, experience, technical expertise, and qualifications to perform the services necessary for the successful design and implementation." The lawsuit also says a lot of the work was outsourced to IBM workers in India and China who possessed less than stellar development skills and practices .-member-
  • Comment 12/11/13: According to "Quora": " 'Blue Harmony' is a internal IT business transformation project with the aim to radically simplify the company's IT environment used to support several critical customer facing business processes to make them easier for IBM customers, business partners and IBMers to interact with, more consistent worldwide and to provide more opportunities for self-service on the web. With Blue Harmony IBM plans to reduce the number of software applications they use for these business processes by, as much as possible, moving business processes onto a single global installation of SAP's Business Suite." -Neal Watkins-
  • Comment 12/11/13: More on Blue Harmony, formally, they are putting the program "on pause." Questions still abound, but program is paused as opposed to stop. Not sure of difference, but they are going to try to redeploy GBS folks into customer accounts, etc. Redirect spend and focus to the Cloud services and other rev generated projects and not invest in BH next year. Focus will be on COE team to help them support China/Germany already deployed on BH. Redeployment of BH people will occur...some will move to COE...but not many. Job board will be created within CIO for other opportunities. -Anon-
  • Comment 12/12/13: IBM is currently starting to pay the fee for not investing into their employees any more. Years of exploitation without participation of employees in revenue/profit increase...this led to a decline of employees' loyalty for IBM. Several IBMers don't care any more how IBM is doing and/or performing since they are not financially involved. -*IBMer*-
  • Comment 12/12/13: When will the insanity end? The Blue Harmony project was doomed from the beginning. Internal systems are so complex and fouled up it's no wonder the plug was pulled. Having known others from countries already on BH whom have suffered the transition, this may be a good move. Good luck to the poor souls who are now looking for work. Hopefully the executives participate in some of the actually leveling supposedly going on. I think not, but it feels good to say it! -wonderman-
  • Comment 12/13/13: Many IBM failures and technical debacles have been cited here. I think a large number of these failures can be attributed to IBM's support model which is based on LEAN and low cost Global Resource. I believe this support model can work well with simple or straight forward projects. However, IBM has many complex solutions and as the complexity of a project increases the ability of this support model to function adequately decreases. But you'll never see any mention of the failure of IBM's support model in any root cause analysis because it is politically incorrect to find fault with this support model. -Joe-
  • Comment 12/11/13: The interesting part about the manager's note below...IBM does not need to make us all 3s to lay us off; they have laid off 1s in the past. But I think (not positive) that laying off a "3" performer is equivalent to firing with cause—i.e., no package. Anybody else know about this? -15yearsandcounting-
  • Comment 12/11/13: Both interpretations are valid. Once the candidate receives (at least one) PBC 3 rating, he/she can be dismissed at any time, as the 3 serves as "prior notification of unsatisfactory performance." In my experience, this is typically reserved for two consecutive 3 ratings. More to the point, however, a layoff can happen at any time, for reasons other than an individual performance rating—recent examples include "the client/subject-area you previously served is no longer necessary" and "you relocated to a region/domain where we have less/zero demand." None of which is to say you can't protest a termination (typically via HR 'Open Door' escalation). -SimpleMath-
  • Comment 12/11/13: Regarding firing with a 3, or not, my limited understanding is that the "package" with threes is not as "generous" as the usual resource action package. For example, for a long time employee, only 13 weeks salary instead of 26. But of course the "package" is not carved in stone either. I can't answer about unemployment benefits and whether you are eligible or not. -anon-
  • Comment 12/12/13: Looks like another RA in Australia in January. Hearing it internally and externally. -anon-
  • Comment 12/12/13: IBM can "Fire at Will". You can have a 1 or a 3. It doesn't make a difference. The severance package for a 3 is half what a 2 or higher will get. That and to make you work harder before you get laid off are the reasons they make people 3's. It's like the BS that you have 30 days to find a job. How many people have found (or been allowed to take) a job in the 30 day window? If you are fired for cause IBM can challenge unemployment payments. You have no contract which would have some protections. -samtheman-
  • Comment 12/12/13: It's clear that the PBC systems sole purpose is to have the list ready for RAs. At last year's Jam, the PBC thread had something like three times as much interaction as the next most popular topic. Senior management has resoundingly ignored it. In the action items there is one tiny acknowledgment "FLM's now have sole discretion on choosing between 2's and 2+'s". Really? That's the take-away from that jam thread? It's obscene. -It'll get worse before it gets better
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
Minimize
  • Washington Post: Obamacare class warfare in Kentucky. By Greg Sargent. Excerpts: Republicans are rolling out an attack on Obamacare that sounds a lot like the Romney 2012 “free stuff” argument. As Beth Reinhard explains in a good piece, the idea is to characterize beneficiaries of the law – particularly the Medicaid expansion — as “shiftless freeloaders” enjoying “free health care,” all ”on the backs of hardworking Americans.”

    Mitch McConnell recently derided the notion that Obamacare is a success by characterizing beneficiaries as “people signing up for something that is free.” Reinhard notes that this line “carries an unmistakable undertone of class warfare, a theme easy to exploit in states such as Kentucky, packed with low-income white voters who have a strong distaste for the federal government.” ...

    The class warfare attacks on Obamacare will continue. Indeed, as Brian Beutler has spelled out, stoking class warfare and resentment are central to other attacks on the law, too, such as the one pitting the young and healthy versus the old and sick. In Reinhard’s piece, you can see variations of this one in Kentucky, too. ...

    Kentucky may prove to be an interesting testing ground for a Democratic balancing act like this. That’s because enrollment has been a success, and many beneficiaries are poor and rural, the very targets for the “class warfare” attacks. Dem governor Steve Beshear is one of the most aggressive advocates for the law in the south, arguing that Dems should run on ”affordable health care” and on the idea that Republicans want to take it away from people.

  • New York Times: On Health Exchanges, Premiums May Be Low, but Other Costs Can Be High. By Robert Pear. Excerpts: or months, the Obama administration has heralded the low premiums of medical insurance policies on sale in the insurance exchanges created by the new health law. But as consumers dig into the details, they are finding that the deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs are often much higher than what is typical in employer-sponsored health plans. ...

    For policies offered in the federal exchange, as in many states, the annual deductible often tops $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for a couple.

    Insurers devised the new policies on the assumption that consumers would pick a plan based mainly on price, as reflected in the premium. But insurance plans with lower premiums generally have higher deductibles.

    In El Paso, Tex., for example, for a husband and wife both age 35, one of the cheapest plans on the federal exchange, offered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, has a premium less than $300 a month, but the annual deductible is more than $12,000. For a 45-year-old couple seeking insurance on the federal exchange in Saginaw, Mich., a policy with a premium of $515 a month has a deductible of $10,000. ...

    By contrast, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average deductible in employer-sponsored health plans is $1,135.

    “Deductibles for many plans in the insurance exchanges are pretty high,” said Stan Dorn, a health policy expert at the Urban Institute. “These plans are more generous than what’s prevalent in the current individual insurance market, but significantly less generous than most employer-sponsored insurance.” ...

    Those limits provide significant protection, even though those sums are substantial for most consumers. In addition, the federal website, HealthCare.gov, informs people that they may qualify for subsidies to reduce their out-of-pocket costs if their household income is below 250 percent of the federal poverty level, meaning that it is less than $28,725 for an individual or $48,825 for a family of three. ...

    At the same time, most policies in the exchanges are more generous than what people have been buying for themselves in the individual insurance market. Mr. Gabel found that 84 percent of policyholders in the individual market had coverage that was less than or equivalent to the bronze level. ...

    Higher deductibles are one tool that insurers can use to hold down premiums. Many have also held down premiums on the exchanges by limiting the choices of doctors and hospitals available to consumers in their provider networks. ...

    “My deductible is nearly $3,000, which is ridiculously high, in my opinion,” Ms. Norris said. “But as someone with pre-existing conditions, I’m grateful to be able to buy insurance at all.”

  • Washington Post: Members of Congress shocked to discover health care system sucks. By Ryan Cooper. Right now, one of the primary ways Congressional Republicans are attacking Obamacare is to cite the sob stories of Congressional staffers — and lawmakers themselves — who are having a bad experience with the law. Thanks to a bit of Republican legislative trolling that forced Members and their staffs onto the exchanges to make a political point, some are discovering that premiums are higher than they would have expected, having previously enjoyed the protection of government benefits that essentially shielded them from reality.

    But if anything, the fact that Members of Congress are now having an unpleasant brush with the American health care system is a good thing. These Members are experiencing the same American health care system that the uninsured and people with preexisting conditions have been experiencing for many years. They are being forced to face the fact that American health care costs a lot, which, of course, is one of the reasons reform is so hard.

    The health care system is already deeply unjust. A good article in the New York Times sheds light on this, and on how Obamacare is changing things for the better:

    More than 243,000 have signed up for private coverage through the exchanges…and more than 567,000 have been determined eligible for Medicaid…For many, particularly people with existing medical conditions… the coverage is proving less expensive than what they had. Many others are getting health insurance for the first time in years, giving them alternatives to seeking care through free clinics or emergency rooms — or putting it off indefinitely.

    Kevin Drum adds a related note about how hospitals routinely gouge uninsured people for everything they’ve got:

    A heart attack that gets billed—profitably!—to Blue Cross at $50,000, can end up costing you $200,000 if you’re unlucky enough to suffer that heart attack while you’re uninsured. Think about that: for decades, the health care industry has deliberately taken ruthless advantage of the very people who are the weakest and most vulnerable—those who are poor or unemployed… It’s shameless and obscene. It’s like kicking a beggar and stealing his coat just because you know the cops will never do anything about it.

    Obamacare, by slowing bringing everyone into the insurance system, will eventually stop this. Compare that to Rep. Michael McCaul (who with at least $114 million is the second-richest member of congress) complaining that the new plans on the DC health exchange are expensive.

    This sort of experience is unvarnished good news. Finally, wealthy members of congress are getting a tiny, tiny taste of how the healthcare sector actually works. Five decades of skyrocketing health price inflation didn’t inspire so much as a peep when Republicans held all three branches of government. But now that Republicans have derped themselves onto the exchanges, they’re shocked, shocked at how expensive things have gotten.

  • New York Times: Enhanced Medical Care for an Annual Fee. By Ginia Bellafante. Excerpts: The health care market in New York is sufficiently unusual that members of the affluent classes routinely question the merits of doctors who do take insurance. How could the doctor satisfied to receive a $20 co-pay also be the doctor skilled enough to know that your palm’s itch is really the early sign of something rare and disfiguring? This psychology, along with the cost-cutting strategies pursued by insurance companies over the years, have driven the field of concierge medicine — typically, boutique general practices that charge premiums for enhanced attention. Five years ago there were 28 concierge doctors in the New York metropolitan area, according to the group Concierge Medicine Today, which studies the field. Today there are 124. ...

    All of this led him and a new partner, Daniel Yadegar, a cardiologist and specialist in integrative and anti-aging medicine, educated at Harvard and Cornell, to embark on a whole new kind of practice, one in which patients — and there will be no more than 400 — will pay $25,000 a year for unfettered access to the doctors. Patients will be able to call and see and text the doctors whenever they want; they will be able to receive home visits, though those will cost extra (and so will lab work). They will be able to ask their doctors to travel to them should they suspect the onset of illness in June in Umbria. Various young Internet moguls have already expressed interest in becoming patients of the practice, which will start next month, Dr. Goldberg said. ...

    In New York it is impossible not to notice that the wealthy will pay dearly for things, and they will pay especially high sums for those things they believe other wealthy people don’t have. Similarly it is hard not to notice the alienation felt by those in the highly educated professional class who have been forced to concede so much of their status to friends and acquaintances who have elected to make 200 times as much money on Wall Street, providing one one-hundredth the social utility. The arrival of a kind of Goldman Sachs of family practices was in some sense inevitable.

  • Washington Post: Things you need to know about the Affordable Care Act and prescription drugs — but probably don’t. By Ariana Eunjung Cha.
  • University of Michigan Health System: A rising tide that lifts all boats: Study links broader health insurance in Massachusetts with better health and care. Compared with other New England states, health status & preventive care improved in Massachusetts after reform – especially for poor & near-poor. Excerpts: In 2006, Massachusetts was on the same brink that the entire nation is on today: the brink of expanding health insurance to cover far more people than before, through government-driven, market-based reform.

    Now, a new study shows the health of residents in that one trailblazing state improved measurably, especially among the poor and near-poor, in just the first five years -- compared with the health of residents in neighboring states. So did the use of some preventive care, specifically two tests designed to spot colon and cervical cancers early, and cholesterol tests to gauge heart disease risk. The study was led by a University of Michigan Medical School researcher.

    Meanwhile, over those same five years, Massachusetts residents were increasingly likely to say they had health insurance and access to a personal doctor, and less likely to say that costs stood in the way of getting care, than other New Englanders. The changes occurred at similar rates for black, white and Hispanic residents.

  • Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT): Better Health Care for More People at Less Cost. Excerpts: Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday introduced legislation to provide health care for every American through a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system. Rep. Jim McDermott has filed a companion bill in the House.

    Sanders supported the Affordable Care Act, but in an interview with The Daily Beast he called the health care law passed in 2010 “only a modest step forward toward dealing with the dysfunction of the American health-care system.” Even under the new law, Sanders added, insurance companies, drug companies and medical equipment suppliers will be able to rake off billions of dollars in profits rather than devoting those resources to providing health care. ...

    "The United States is the only major nation in the industrialized world that does not guarantee health care as a right to its people," Sanders said. "Meanwhile, we spend about twice as much per capita on health care with worse results than other countries that spend far less. It is time that we bring about a fundamental transformation of the American health care system. It is time for us to end private, for-profit participation in delivering basic coverage. It is time for the United States to provide a Medicare-for-all single-payer health coverage program," Sanders said.

  • RAND Corporation: Will the Affordable Care Act Make Health Care More Affordable? Much of the debate over the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has focused on health insurance: How many people will have coverage? How much will premiums cost? Yet the ACA is intended to do more than expand coverage; it is also meant to make health care more affordable. Will the ACA live up to its name?

    Health insurance is not an end in itself. Insurance is meant to help people get needed health care at prices they can afford and, in the event of serious injury or accident, to protect them from catastrophic medical bills. For the past decade, sharply escalating health care costs have posed a substantial burden for Americans. Between 2001 and 2010, the share of working-age adults with medical expenses totaling 10 percent or more of income increased from 21 percent to 32 percent. According to recent RAND research, family incomes would have risen much more over the past decade had employers not faced steeply rising health care costs.

    As the new exchanges open for enrollment, data on the cost of coverage have begun to emerge, but we still lack reliable estimates of how the new law will affect spending on health care by those who gain or switch coverage because of the law and of the impact these changes will have on the risk of catastrophic medical spending, a factor that contributes to half of all bankruptcies in the United States. ...

    Conclusion: Ultimately, whether the ACA will make health care affordable requires a value judgment. For most lower-income individuals, total spending will fall as a result of the coverage they obtain under the ACA. However, for some higher-income people who become newly insured through the individual market (especially those not eligible for federal subsidies), total spending will increase because they now must pay health insurance premiums for the first time. However, their premiums will buy them the benefits associated with health coverage, such as access to free preventive care and regular wellness visits, and will also better protect them from catastrophic medical costs.

News and Opinion Concerning the "War on the Middle Class"
Minimize "It is a restatement of laissez-faire-let things take their natural course without government interference. If people manage to become prosperous, good. If they starve, or have no place to live, or no money to pay medical bills, they have only themselves to blame; it is not the responsibility of society. We mustn't make people dependent on government- it is bad for them, the argument goes. Better hunger than dependency, better sickness than dependency."

"But dependency on government has never been bad for the rich. The pretense of the laissez-faire people is that only the poor are dependent on government, while the rich take care of themselves. This argument manages to ignore all of modern history, which shows a consistent record of laissez-faire for the poor, but enormous government intervention for the rich." From Economic Justice: The American Class System, from the book Declarations of Independence by Howard Zinn.

  • New York Times op-ed: The Punishment Cure. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: Six years have passed since the United States economy entered the Great Recession, four and a half since it officially began to recover, but long-term unemployment remains disastrously high. And Republicans have a theory about why this is happening. Their theory is, as it happens, completely wrong. But they’re sticking to it — and as a result, 1.3 million American workers, many of them in desperate financial straits, are set to lose unemployment benefits at the end of December.

    Merry Christmas.

    Now, the G.O.P.’s desire to punish the unemployed doesn’t arise solely from bad economics; it’s part of a general pattern of afflicting the afflicted while comforting the comfortable (no to food stamps, yes to farm subsidies). But ideas do matter — as John Maynard Keynes famously wrote, they are “dangerous for good or evil.” And the case of unemployment benefits is an especially clear example of superficially plausible but wrong economic ideas being dangerous for evil. ...

    Correspondingly, the G.O.P. answer to the problem of long-term unemployment is to increase the pain of the long-term unemployed: Cut off their benefits, and they’ll go out and find jobs. How, exactly, will they find jobs when there are three times as many job-seekers as job vacancies? Details, details. ...

    The view of most labor economists now is that unemployment benefits have only a modest negative effect on job search — and in today’s economy have no negative effect at all on overall employment. On the contrary, unemployment benefits help create jobs, and cutting those benefits would depress the economy as a whole. ...

    The point is that employment in today’s American economy is limited by demand, not supply. Businesses aren’t failing to hire because they can’t find willing workers; they’re failing to hire because they can’t find enough customers. And slashing unemployment benefits — which would have the side effect of reducing incomes and hence consumer spending — would just make the situation worse.

  • Reuters, courtesy of The Fiscal Times: Auto Industry Bailout an Impressive Success: Report. By Ben Klayman. The federal bailout of General Motors Co, Chrysler and parts suppliers in 2009 saved 1.5 million U.S. jobs and preserved $105.3 billion in personal and social insurance tax collections, according to a study released on Monday.

    The Bush and Obama administrations loaned the auto industry, including GM and Chrysler, which is now controlled by Italy's Fiat, $80 billion to avoid the collapse of the industry that they felt would result in the loss of millions of U.S. jobs.

    Critics of the bailout at the time had argued the companies should be allowed to fail and the industry that resulted from the aftermath would be stronger. Treasury officials have repeatedly said the bailout was not an investment meant to turn a profit, but a move to save U.S. jobs. ...

    "This peacetime intervention in the private sector by the U.S. government will be viewed as one of the most successful interventions in U.S. economic history," said McAlinden, who wrote the study along with Debra Maranger Menk. ...

    CAR estimated that a complete shutdown of the industry that was bailed out in 2009 would have resulted in the loss of 2.63 million jobs and those losses would still have stood at more than 1.5 million in 2010. If only GM had been shut down, the job losses would have been almost 1.2 million in 2009, shrinking to 675,000 in 2010.

    While U.S. Treasury's final loss on the bailout is estimated at $13.7 billion including $11.8 billion related to its investment in GM, it avoided the loss of $105.3 billion in unemployment benefit payments and the loss of personal and social insurance tax collections, according to CAR.

  • New York Times: Political Fight on Farm Aid and Food Stamps Hits Home in the Delta. By Ron Nixon. Excerpts: Thomas Bond, a cotton grower whose onetime 8,500-acre partnership of farms received $4 million in federal subsidies in the last seven years, thinks that many residents in the surrounding Mississippi Delta need food stamps. But he says the program is too big and rife with fraud.

    “There are a lot of people on food stamps who shouldn’t be,” Mr. Bond said in a recent interview at the Yazoo Country Club. “They could be working, but don’t.”

    Attitudes like that anger Monica Stokes, who works as a clerk at a local check-cashing store and has been cut off from $167 a month in food stamps because her income rose slightly. ...

    Since 1995, farms in Humphreys County have received about $250 million in subsidies, which puts Humphreys close to the middle in a list of counties that get the payments. At the same time, nearly half of the county’s 9,100 residents receive food stamps, one of the highest rates in the nation.

    As a result, Humphreys has one of the greatest disparities between the poor, who face food stamp cuts under proposals in the new farm bill, and farmers, who stand to gain more in subsidies.

  • New York Times op-ed: The Biggest Losers. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: The pundit consensus seems to be that Republicans lost in the just-concluded budget deal. Overall spending will be a bit higher than the level mandated by the sequester, the straitjacket imposed back in 2011. Meanwhile, Democrats avoided making any concessions on Social Security or Medicare. Call this one for Team D, I guess.

    But if Republicans arguably lost this round, the unemployed lost even more: Extended benefits weren’t renewed, so 1.3 million workers will be cut off at the end of this month, and many more will see their benefits run out in the months that follow. And if you take a longer perspective — if you look at what has happened since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 2010 — what you see is a triumph of anti-government ideology that has had enormously destructive effects on American workers.

    First, some facts about government spending.

    One of the truly remarkable things about American political discourse at the end of 2013 is the fixed conviction among many conservatives that the Obama era has been one of enormous growth in government. Where do they think this surge in government spending has taken place? ...

    Meanwhile, the actual numbers show that over the past three years we’ve been living through an era of unprecedented government downsizing. Government employment is down sharply; so is total government spending (including state and local governments) adjusted for inflation, which has fallen almost 3 percent since 2010 and around 5 percent per capita.

    And when I say unprecedented, I mean just that. We haven’t seen anything like the recent government cutbacks since the 1950s, and probably since the demobilization that followed World War II.

If you hire good people and treat them well, they will try to do a good job. They will stimulate one another by their vigor and example. They will set a fast pace for themselves. Then if they are well led and occasionally inspired, if they understand what the company is trying to do and know they will share in its sucess, they will contribute in a major way. The customer will get the superior service he is looking for. The result is profit to customers, employees, and to stcckholders. —Thomas J. Watson, Jr., from A Business and Its Beliefs: The Ideas That Helped Build IBM.

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