Only after my visit to Stuttgart I realize how little I knew about IBM. Only on the night before my trip I shortly looked at their Wikipedia entry. So what did I know before:
- IBM stood for Identical Blue Men, so I was expecting all their employees to wear suits.
- Their involvement with open source software: Linux, Eclipse, Derby, Geronimo, Harmony etc.
- Their hardware, especially the mainframes, which I always associated with maintaining very old programs written in languages like COBOL and Fortran.
- Their scary patents. Scary because of the extremely bad reputation software patents have among developers.
- The fact that they have a highly regarded research lab in Zurich.
Here are some things I hardly knew anything about:
- IBM is a business services company. More than half of their revenues comes from services, not from software or hardware as many would expect. However, they are so big that they are still the largest hardware company in the world, and the second largest software company after Microsoft. Approximatively 330,000 employees in 170 countries, 91 billion dollars in revenues, and almost 10 billions in profit per year – quite amazing numbers.
- Their five most important software projects are: WebSphere, DB2, Lotus, Rational and Tivoli. Even if I heard about them before, these names might not tell you anything. This is all corporate software, so you won’t find any of it selling at Metro. Also their focus is on solutions for the problems or their clients, and not so much on product branding.
- What gives IBM the edge over their competitors is innovation. During the years IBM employees have earned five Nobel Prizes and four Turing Awards. And even if I don’t quite like this measure of innovation: they are by far the company with the most patents in the world.
- Their corporate culture is very much based on “employee growth”. IBM offers career opportunities for managers, but also for technical-oriented employees.
- Not everybody wears a suit at IBM. Actually, seems like only managers and the people who have contact with the clients wear suits. Technical people wear jeans and casual clothes.