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Highlights—November 24, 2007

  • The Register (United Kingdom): Remembering the IBM PC. C:\> cd \memories\ibm\1981. By Austin Modine. Excerpts: It's time again to rewind that fleshy cassette storage device in your head to yesteryear. This week, we're headed back to August 12, 1981 — the date IBM introduced its Personal Computer, a system that would shape the industry and make the term "PC" synonymous with home computers. ...

    IBM assembled a 12-person team with the goal of bringing a product to market as quickly as possible, dubbed "Project Chess." At first, they considered buying Atari to assimilate its fledgling line of computers. But IBM instead decided to pursue its own offering — while saving money and time by building the machine with parts bought from a variety of OEMs. The company had previously developed its own components in-house.

    Editor's note: A tidbit about the first IBM PC that most people aren't aware of is that the PC might have set a new standard for diskette storage had many of us in Boulder (and Rochester, prior to moving diskette drives from there) been able to develop an IBM internal drive faster. At the time, IBM computers (and other brands, too) used 8 inch diskettes. 5.25 inch drives were not common, and were unheard of inside IBM. I worked on a project code named "Foxtail" that was for a drive that used 4 inch rigid diskettes, much like the 3.5 inch drives that would come several years later. Had Boulder been able to finish development of Foxtail in time for the first PC, Boca would have shipped the first IBM PC with internally-developed 4 inch drives, instead of the 5.25 inch drives bought from a third-party vendor.

    I still have a development-level Foxtail drive and diskette. It was quite revolutinary for the time. Instead of using rails and a stepper motor to control the head placement, it used a cheap motor and a precision-machined cam. Instead of MFM encoding, it used a more sophisticated algorithm to increase data storage density and error recovery (not just detection). And, if memory serves me right, it stored nearly 500 KB on a single side instead of the 160 KB of the original, single-sided 5.25 inch drive.

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree - Information Exchange post: "2008 medical plan analysis" by "Jay". Full excerpt: I don't know how many of you guys battled through this but I was out of town for the whole enrollment period until this past Sunday. I opened the material which had arrived while I was away. Then the struggle began. I'm going on 69 so am on Medicare coverage - my wife and daughter are not eligible for Medicare.

    Trying to understand the pros and cons of the new Aetna offering was rediculous. After 4 calls to the help line I finally realized my wife and daughter were covered under the Aetna Open Choice PPO and not the Aetna Medicare Open Choice Plan (PFFS). But the real hooker is that the Guide to IBM Benefits Enrollment (Blue cover page) for IBM Retirees gives no detail on the Open Choice PPO even though page 10 tells you to consult your 'Health Plan Detail Sheet' for specific covergae information.

    So how do you make a choice?? It turns out they never sent that sheet to us according to the retiree help line.

    NEEDLESS TO SAY IBM NO LONGER MEANS ANYN OF THE BASIC BELIEFS I LEARNED IN 1965 WHEN I JOINED.

    One steamed retiee after 5 hours of useless work, Jay

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree - Information Exchange post: "2008 medical plan analysis" by "About Hadit". I did not get the Aetna insert either. I called the hotline and discussed it with an IBM rep. He extended my enrollment period until 12/4 and mailed it to me. I had him insert a note in my file to ensure I'm not locked out.

    Another thing. Aetna mailed a packet out with a disk explaining their coverage. I haven't looked at it as yet.

    I also talked to someone at the IBM Retiree Hotline. He said that one gotcha of the Aetna Open plan is that you have to spend about $1100 before the plan goes into 80/20 mode.

    He also said that under that plan, each doctor accepts or rejects the plan on a visit by visit basis. That simply means more uncertainty when you seed medical services. Doc says Yes today and No tomorrow.

    There is also an appeal process for denied claims that rivals anything the US Gov throws at you.

    The cost to me is about $110/mon. over what I would pay for IBM Medicare Supplement. Then add the $1100 and that's the increase to me if I choose Aetna.

    The reason I'm looking at Aetna is because my wife is not eligible for Medicare yet and there is a $3500 cap on drugs under the IBM plan. To eliminate the cap would cost me an extra $350/mon.

    Should she have a serious illness like cancer, the cost of chemotherapy drugs would exceed that cap in a heart beat. So far, we are both in good health and have a good family history. Still, that doesn't rule out catching something because of what someone put in the water or the nearby landfill over the years.

    You place your bet and spin the wheel.

  • Yahoo IBM Retiree - Information Exchange post: "Re: 2008 Enrollment Deadline Extended To 12-14-2007" by "retired_loveit". Full excerpt: I bet that this delay is the result of poor staffing and poor training of Fidelity's subcontractor employees.

    The real root cause is that IBM did not assigned any knowledgeable professional (I guess they all left or retired) who would be capable of developing and implementing an effective quality plan for this so complex endeavour and then verifying and auditing it's execution.

    We are lucky that we are not getting free food rations from IBM yet. They could pack in the cans all that discarted dog food plus some lead to spice things up...Milan Miklos

  • Yahoo IBM Retiree - Information Exchange post: "Re: 2008 Enrollment Deadline Extended To 12-14-2007" by "tx_rodmaster". Full excerpt: Based on the CD from Aetna, what the person told you is right. It's right on the CD. The Dr accepts or rejects your coverage on a visit by visit basis. You get seriously ill and the DR says no ! What a "lovely position" to find yourself in. Any problems the Dr encounters with Aetna payments and he decides it ain't worth it and says go away.

    I encounter enough problems with UHC's handling of Medicare stuff. Big insurance co.'s like AETNA and UHC scare the hell out of me and Aetna is really a big insurer in multiple fields. Empire BC was a dream compared to UHC. I'll keep good old standard Medicare and the IBM "max oop" and suck up the 20%.

  • CIO Magazine: How to Attract Women to Enterprise IT Jobs. More young women would choose careers in enterprise IT if CIOs would market them as business—not technology—jobs. By Laurie M. Orlov. Excerpts: Enterprise IT is a fantastic field for women, especially young women, to consider, especially now. Why? Because much of the work capitalizes on women's greatest strengths—communication, collaboration and problem solving—and because a looming worker shortage means the supply-demand balance will tip toward more frenzied recruiting. But ask CIOs whether they think the field is adequately marketed and correctly described, and they admit that it suffers from an outdated image, inadequate promotion, and misperceptions about exactly what the work is. ...

    I agree that attracting more girls and women is a must for the technical workforce that invents new tools, games, devices, software and hardware (to be used and consumed by, among others, women). But this emphasis on programming, robotics, computer science and engineering won't get women interested in working for your IT organization. In fact, it is exactly that tech focus that obscures the true nature of enterprise IT jobs (which we'll call business technology) and the background and skills necessary to excel at them. ...

    Meanwhile, the collection of jobs that saddled business technology with its geeky image—network and data center administration, code maintenance, programming and help desk—may soon be centralized, automated or offloaded to outsourcers. The stereotypically inarticulate men with pocket protectors who hold these jobs—and who defined the image of the profession way back in the '70s—will soon retire en masse (taking with them their pocket protectors). ...

    Now you need business analysts, program managers, vendor managers, relationship managers, information architects or process analysts. These jobs (any of which can lead to CIO) demand employees with excellent communication skills that many of the women you know have: the ability to speak, negotiate, influence others, write, analyze, manage projects or programs, and lead cultural change. These jobs are not about writing operating systems or learning programming languages. They are about helping companies change the way they work. "Driving changes that help the business generate more revenue, lower cost or improve customer service—cracking these business problems—that's fun!" says June Drewry, CIO of the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies.

News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
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  • New York Times: Blowing the Whistle, Many Times. By Mary Williams Walsh. Excerpts: When Cynthia Fitzgerald started out in pharmaceutical sales 20 years ago, she received ample training on the right and wrong ways to sell medical products. Right was selling on the merits. Wrong was luring customers with perks and freebies. It was O.K. to buy doctors lunch or dinner, for example, but tempting them with lavish gifts was taboo.

    “There were pretty stringent rules back then,” recalls Ms. Fitzgerald, now 50 and a grandmother living in Dallas. “It was really clinically driven.”

    But she says those early lessons didn’t serve her so well when she went to work on the other side of the table in 1998, in health care purchasing. Going by the book, and expecting her colleagues and employer to do the same, cost her a job, most of her friendships and several years of her life, she says.

    Eventually, Ms. Fitzgerald decided to file what could become one of the largest whistle-blower lawsuits on record. And her case, which names more than a dozen companies as defendants — some with well-known names like Johnson & Johnson, Becton Dickinson and Merck — offers a window onto a little-known world, where billions of dollars’ worth of medical products are sold each year to institutional buyers like hospitals.

    The suit, filed in 2003 in federal court in Dallas, and unsealed this year, argues that improper sales practices, together with erroneous accounting, are invisibly draining millions of dollars out of vital public programs like Medicare through overcharges or unauthorized uses. While whistle-blower cases typically involve, at most, a handful of companies, Ms. Fitzgerald’s alleges systemic fraud across a whole network of companies and more than 7,000 health care institutions.

  • Newsweek, courtesy of California Nurses Association: Fresh Pain for the Uninsured. By Brian Grow and Robert Berner. Excerpts: As doctors and hospitals turn to GE, Citigroup, and smaller rivals to finance patient care, the sick pay much more.

    In a lucrative new form of fiscal alchemy, a growing number of hospitals, working with a range of financial companies, are squeezing revenue from patients with little or no health insurance. April Dial's dealings with Hot Spring County Medical Center in Malvern, Ark., illustrate how the transformation of medical bills into consumer debt means quicker cash for medical providers but tougher times for many patients of modest means.

    Dial, a 23-year-old truck-stop waitress who earns $17,000 a year plus tips, suffers from Type 1 diabetes. Sudden drops in her blood sugar level have sent her to the emergency room four times in the past three years. In September she spent three days at Hot Spring, including two in intensive care, fighting complications from her ailment. The bills came to more than $14,000. Dial's job offers no health insurance.

    Until recently her mother, Carolyn, who waits tables at the same roadside diner, sent Hot Spring $100 a month under the nonprofit hospital's longstanding zero-interest payment plan. Dial says she couldn't make payments herself because she spends more than $150 a month for other treatment and insulin.

    In October she learned that Hot Spring had transferred her account to a company called CompleteCare, one of the many small firms fueling the little-known medical debt revolution. Enticed by the enormous potential market of uninsured and poorly insured patients, financial giants such as General Electric (GE), U.S. Bancorp (USB), Capital One (COF), and Citigroup (C) are rapidly expanding in the field or joining the fray for the first time. CompleteCare informed Dial that under the complicated terms of her newly financed debt, her minimum monthly payment had shot up more than fourfold, to $455. Dial says she doesn't have anywhere close to that amount left over after rent, food, and other doctor visits: "Every extra dime I have goes to paying medical bills."

  • Commonwealth Fund: Health Care: Solutions Without Borders. By Karen Davis. Excerpts: At a time when most Americans favor an overhaul of the health care system, it's important to look closely at what other countries are getting right. A growing number of health care stakeholders, including policymakers and insurance industry officials, are recommending that we look across the Atlantic to explore the health systems in countries that cover all of their citizens.

    The Commonwealth Fund's 2007 International Health Policy Survey released in October—our 10th annual international survey—reveals that, while no one health system provides an ideal model, we have much to learn from the other countries. The complete results of the survey of 12,000 adults in Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States were published as a Health Affairs Web Exclusive authored by Cathy Schoen, Robin Osborn, Michelle M. Doty, Meghan Bishop, Jordon Peugh, and Nandita Murukutla.

    The survey found that financial barriers prevent many U.S. adults from getting the care they need. Thirty-seven percent of all U.S. adults surveyed skipped medications, did not see a doctor when sick, or did not obtain recommended care because they could not afford it. Despite going without care, 30 percent of U.S. adults reported paying more than $1,000 in out-of-pocket medical costs in the last year. By contrast, only 5 percent of adults in the Netherlands and 8 percent in the U.K., reported problems accessing care due to costs. And only 5 percent of adults in the Netherlands and 4 percent of adults in the U.K reported paying more than $1000 in out-of-pocket costs.

  • Jim Hightower: Bush's Deepest Health Care Shame. Excerpts: It’s well known that the Bushites don’t much care that the number of Americans without health coverage has zoomed upward by seven million since they’ve been in charge, including an increase of 600,000 children last year alone. After all, says George W, all Americans have access to health care since “you just go to an emergency room.”

    But here’s a bit of Bushite health-care callousness that is not generally known, and it might both surprise and appall you. The number of uninsured veterans has jumped dramatically on the Bush watch, with nearly two million vets now without health coverage. Indeed, the number of uncovered veterans has risen twice as fast as the number of uninsured in the general population, according to a report in the American Journal of Public Health.

    But wait, you say – isn’t Bush the guy who’s always saying, “Support the troops, support the troops?” Surely there must be some mistake. He wouldn’t turn his back on the troops once they come home, especially not sick and wounded vets – would he?

    Sadly, appallingly… yes, he would. And this is not an oversight on his part either, for his administration has actively pushed policies to limit the number of vets eligible for coverage. In 2002, even as he was revving up the war machine to send our troops into Iraq, Bush administrators at the VA quietly stopped marketing health coverage to veterans, citing the need to constrain spending. A year later, they went further, actually cutting off access to future vets who earn more than about $30,000 a year. The result is that most of today’s uninsured veterans are lower-middle income workers who are too poor to afford private policies, but not poor enough to qualify for free health care.

    This is beyond shameful. No Bushite should be allowed ever again to mouth the words: support our troops.

  • Wall Street Journal: Health-Care Plans Aid Industry. Democrats' Ideas Would Bring Boost To Insurers, Doctors. By Laura Meckler. Excerpts: Democratic presidential candidates like to beat up on insurance companies, but there is a lot for the industry to like in their health-care plans -- starting with plenty of new business.

    "Here's the potential for a whole new pool of lives for them to cover, with payment behind it," said Benjamin Isgur, assistant director of PricewaterhouseCoopers' Health Research Institute, which examined the presidential health plans' impact on industry. The study, a comprehensive look at health-care plans offered by candidates in both parties, also concludes that doctors, hospitals and other health-care providers would likely benefit since more patients with insurance suggest more would seek care and be able to pay their bills. ...

    Democrats are promising to get tough with insurers, principally by requiring them to cover all who apply and preventing them from charging those who are sick more. Those proposals are anathema to the industry, but less so when they are coupled with a mandate that everyone buy insurance in the first place. Without that mandate, insurers fear that sick people will disproportionately seek insurance, without healthy people in the pool to balance them out financially. With a mandate, that's less of a problem.

  • Los Angeles Times: A gap in GOP candidates' healthcare proposals. Giuliani, McCain and Thompson are offering plans to help the uninsured -- but their aversion to regulations would mean that many of their fellow cancer survivors would be left out. By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar. Excerpts: When Rudolph W. Giuliani was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the spring of 2000, one thing he did not have to worry about was a lack of medical insurance.

    Today, the former New York mayor joins two other cancer survivors in seeking the Republican presidential nomination: Arizona Sen. John McCain has been treated for melanoma, the most serious type of skin malignancy, and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson had lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system.

    All three have offered proposals with the stated aim of helping the 47 million people in the U.S. who have no health insurance, including those with preexisting medical conditions.

    But under the plans all three have put forward, cancer survivors such as themselves could not be sure of getting coverage -- especially if they were not already covered by a government or job-related plan and had to seek insurance as individuals.

    "Unless it's in a state that has very strong consumer protections, they would likely be denied coverage," said economist Paul Fronstin of the Employee Benefit Research Institute, who has reviewed the candidates' proposals. "People with preexisting conditions would not be able to get coverage or would not be able to afford it." ...

    Republicans want to expand the existing private insurance system, offering new tax breaks as a way of helping people buy insurance individually. But they also want to avoid federal regulation that would tell insurers whom they have to cover and how much they may charge.

    That means the self-employed and others seeking individual coverage would be subject to a marketplace in which insurers generally pick the healthiest applicants and turn the rest away. Cancer survivors -- even if they have been free of disease for several years -- are routinely denied health insurance when they try to purchase it as individuals. ...

    Even if coverage is offered, it often comes with restrictions or high premiums that many find unaffordable. In the individual market, coverage rules "are really quite fussy," said Karen Pollitz, a Georgetown University research professor who specializes in the field. "Most companies won't touch you if you have a cancer history within five years, and with some companies . . . if you've ever had cancer, you can't get coverage."

New on the Alliance@IBM Site:
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  • From the Job Cuts Status & Comments page
    • Comment 11/16/07: I received this email yesterday from a guy who created Notesbuddy (which in my opinion is far better than sametime). It's pretty cruel to have hired him, used his notesbuddy features in sametime, then laid him off. If this guy can get laid off...I'm sure none of us is safe. -Anonymous-

      Dear Friend of NotesBuddy,

      First of all, I apologize for contacting you directly and taking your time. I requested a list of the users that were still using NotesBuddy 15 days ago so I could communicate with you directly about the transition to Sametime. I realize that some of you have already made the switch to Sametime, but nevertheless I wanted to send you a note. First and most importantly, I want to thank you for hanging in there 'til the end. NotesBuddy has been a great ride for Craig Swearingen and myself. We got a lot of satisfaction and enjoyment from the project and from watching the sat and "delight" numbers grow. When NotesBuddy achieved the milestone of being used daily by 100,000 IBMers and thousands of customers (by word-of-mouth, the best measure of success), with sustained high satisfaction numbers, Craig and I were asked to come and bring some of that phenomenon to the commercial Sametime product by leaving our posts in Software Group Strategy (Ease of Use) and joining Lotus. I felt strongly enough to move my family from Austin to Westford, Massachusetts.

      18 months later, many of the more popular features of NotesBuddy, some still not found in competitors' products, have found their way into Sametime. Admittedly, some of the more experimental, albeit popular features, are not there yet, including the performance characteristics, but of the 110,000 users at the peak, more than 80,000 have moved to Sametime with relatively low numbers of complaints. Of course there are some pet features that even I miss, but by far, the core set is there. Remember, we have to integrate on a world-wide basis, with high quality, and some of the features were a bit too radical to make it into the first roll-outs.

      So, when the CIO set plans to "sunset" NotesBuddy, I asked for the list of remaining users (about 45,000, including YOU), and I meant to send out this note right away. But since then, the world has turned upside down for me, and a few things have happened to the NotesBuddy sunset plans. Because of some technical glitches with Sametime on ISSI, and some accessibility issues, the "sunsetting" (I love that term... so peaceful, so final; going-going-gone ) of NotesBuddy has been delayed at least a week, and maybe longer.

      On a personal note, I have been selected for a resource action (lay off) after 33 years. This came out of left field for me. The Lotus team has been great in listening to ideas, and I can't fault them for not moving as fast as we had the freedom to do with NotesBuddy as a self-motivated side-project for Craig and myself. Craig will remain to bring the NB quality to the product, and because of that, I am hopeful. I leave behind a decent list of NB features still to make it to the outside world. Whether or not I should have physically moved will be revealed with time. I'm a short-timer now, and ironically may even leave before NotesBuddy does.

      I have had a lot of dealings with the CIO team that help maintain the servers. At times rolling out new NotesBuddy iterations was difficult (understatement), but looking back, the whole system improved because of it. Even the dichotomy of NotesBuddy and ICT (another IM client and set of people that moved to Lotus) improved the system. Many features from NotesBuddy influenced Sametime directly, and some indirectly through the adoption by our ICT colleagues. Both NotesBuddy and ICT are in the fabric of Sametime.

      Discussion of Sametime and NotesBuddy items takes place in the IBM forums, but I recognize that only a handful of you follow those. If you want to discuss performance or features or stay up to date on CIO actions, please look into that venue. I take a lot of pride in knowing that NotesBuddy helps make people feel that they communicate better, and that they "enjoy" using it; a sentiment rarely found in a business tool. I have had several other radical tools, such as the first popular IBM spell checking editor called PROOF, probably before your time (although the code and dictionaries still run today in Notes and Sametime), and in all cases, excellence and "delight" of the users were the goals.

      I have had a great ride at IBM, working on and/or managing popular commercial products, too. Most of all the people I worked with, locally and around the world, made my stay at IBM worthwhile. I feel very connected to the NotesBuddy community, and at times I felt like I knew all of you.

      Would you do me a big favor? Would you spend 4 minutes of your busy day and let me know how NotesBuddy affected your work or your life or your state of mind? Just a few sentences will do. And, as much as I would like to fix all the evils of the world, I can no longer impact the present or future of Sametime, so let's try to block those urges, just for the moment, OK?. Wouldn't it be nice to have a binder of positive notes I can look back upon 10 years later? If you feel inclined, you might even copy my manager(s).

      I hope you have as long and as great a time in IBM as I did. Keep innovation alive.

      All the best, Alan Tannenbaum.

    • Comment 11/17/07: Alan Tannenbaum is a perfect example of being blinded by the the geekDOM technicals and losing site of the big picture screw job that ibm did to he and his family. Alan, for God's sake, forget NotesBuddy, SameSlime, Lotus crap and worry about the rest of your life -ibmPissedONmeENOUGH-
    • Comment 11/17/07: Just goes to show, anyone with any bit of creativity and gumption doesn't fit in at the new cost concious IBM. IBM is not a good place for inovators to work! -RA'd bear-
    • Comment 11/17/07: In regards to the post on "Dear Friend of NotesBuddy" Yes, this is more bad news I hate to hear. What significant hardware or software project has someone like our "embrace change" CTO Donofrio worked on recently or can really pin his name on as a significant developer??? It's fine to keep the CTO around and fire Alan who did a great job with NiotesBuddy. How absurd it is that Donofrio still remains. No "change to embrace" concerning the employment status with the IBM CTO.

      I wonder how many other folks in the IBM WebAhead team also got the ax. There is absolutely no fairness left in Big Blew. The only thing IBM consistently produces is rigged financial engineering so the IBM upper management from IBM Director on up gets more and more filthy rich. Of course this includes Nick Donofrio. Everyone else can suffer and everyone else has to watch their back. Without a union even watching your back will be futile. Just take a guess when you will be RA'ed since it WILL COME without a collective voice! -keep Alan_RA Nick-

    • Comment 11/18/07: I am a Friend of NotesBuddy. This should be a mantra for this union that instead of being slaughtered like sheep, one at a time, that we rise to the occasion and help our fellow man. After all, in short time, that man may be you. -Joe Punchclock-
    • Comment 11/18/07: I actually read all of Al's letter trying to give benefit of doubt but still feel that this is an ad for Notesbuddy....a shame what corporate America can allow us to become. Al, I feel badly for you, but I am sure that you have a very lucrative and financially secure future. We should all do as well. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 11/19/07: RE: "I actually read all of Al's letter trying to give benefit of doubt but still feel that this is an ad for Notesbuddy" I don't understand the point of your comment. Al didn't post this note here, he sent it to his loyal internal NotesBuddy customers to let them know that he was being asked to leave; to point out the significance of his inventions to ongoing IBM commercial products; and to ask for letters to go into his "final" notebook from his coworkers. The poster was one of Al's customers who wanted to share this rather remarkable event--the laying-off of one of IBM's significant Band 10 technical contributors--with the rest of us.

      I'm glad it was posted, because I think it says something significant about the current IBM. It should also provide some small comfort to sub-band-10 folks who have also been kicked to the curb. Again, folks, it's not YOU, it's THEM. They don't understand the business, and they don't have to care, since they--Nick, Sam, etc.--win, regardless of what happens to IBM. IBM is not unique in the way it is managed. The US is goin' down, and Sam and Co. are playing a part in its destruction. -alreadyGone-

    • Comment 11/19/07: Update on the AT&T network outsource deal. It's on the EU schedule (European Commission for regulatory clearance) for Dec 18, so odds are we won't get any true updates from IBM until after that date. Also of note in that article - "The Commission launches first-phase inquiries into all deals that meet EU merger thresholds. These inquiries last one month but are extended by two weeks when companies offer remedies or when a national competition authority asks to rule on the deal. A deal that is not expected to raise competition concerns may be submitted as a candidate for the EU's simplified merger procedure, a reduced regulatory process. The Commission is entitled to transform a simplified inquiry into a full first-phase inquiry." IBM's entry is marked as a possible "simplified inquiry"....sounds like the fast path. -Anonymous-
  • General Visitor's Comment page:
    • Comment 11/19/07: Has anybody noticed the change to the Health Plan for dependents. IBM has always offered benefits for dependents up to age 23 as long as they were not working full time. They now only offer medical benefits to dependents to age 19 unless they are in school full time up to age 23. And full time can not be going to school at night. My daughter is 21 and has graduated from college. She will no longer have medical benefits come January 1, 2008. Big Blue bites BIG TIME! How did they sneak this in unnoticed -Big Blue Bites-
    • Comment 11/20/07: BBB, It has always been that adult children must be full time students after age 18 to have IBM insurance, (at least in NY). IBM and the HMO\'s more or less looked the other way if someone lied on the application forms. Not so any more. At 21, with diploma in hand, it is time to find a job with bennies. -Not news-
    • Comment 11/20/07: Yep, saw that change on age 19-23 year old dependents. I noticed because my 23 year old graduate student was just offered IBM COBRA for a mere $370 a month. That's about twice what I will pay for the rest of the family. For all the talk about concern for the individual, it seems like there would be some type of plan to bridge coverage for a dependent under those circumstances. Wait, I forgot, we have pirates sailing this ship. So, I'm just going to work enough overtime to cover the additional cost. This IBM'ers values have come to reflect IBM's core values of "get the revenue, it's all that matters." -gadfly-
  • Pension Comments page
  • Raise and Salary Comments
    • Comment 11/17/07: A comparison of IBM IT vs the IT Industry: I read the Back from the Brink article in Nov 12 ComputerWorld. It listed a chart of average IT salary growth from 1987 through 2007. I made a couple of comparisons based on my personal experience as an above average contributor at IBM. I assumed an above average IT person at IBM (me) and a mythical average IT person with the same base salary of N in 2003. For the IBM IT person, the pay in 2007 would be 1.0404 times N, for the average IT person, the pay would be 1.1660 times N. Which translates into over a 12% difference over 5 years. At least in the IT business, IBM pay and raises are nowhere near competitive. BTW, when you factor in bonuses, IBM is even worse, since payouts have been miserably low. -Pay Watcher-
    • Comment 11/17/07: Salary = 150000; Band Level = 9; Job Title = Senior Managing Consultant; Years Service = 3.5; Hours/Week = 60 - 90; Div Name = 16 Public Sector; Location = Washington DC; Message = Just notified that I'm being downsized due to 'not being marketable'. I have 18 years in my specialty and 22 total years experience. How is this possible? -Anonymous-
    • Comment 11/19/07: Salary = 39K; Band Level = 6; Job Title = Financial Analyst; Years Service = 1.5; Hours/Week = 40; Location = Rochester; Message = Pay is way below market. I should be making 50K+ even with just 1.5 yrs exp. The foot in the door comments are very true. You can lower the band 6 range down to 37.5K. That's the low range of the Rochester FA's. Most start at 38K though. -Job Hunting-
    • Comment 11/19/07: RE: Message = Just notified that I'm being downsized due to 'not being marketable'. I have 18 years in my specialty and 22 total years experience. How is this possible? -Anonymous- Again, it's not YOU. Come on, you're a smart guy/gal. You KNOW that idiots are running this company. It's an insult for someone with your talent to be fired, but remember: the decision was made by an idiot running a spread sheet that popped up your high salary. They don't know anything about running a technology company; they're just running programs that tell them how to lower costs. Someone probably got a bonus for firing you. Good luck in your job search. Don't lose confidence in yourself because of a decision made by a bureaucratic drone who knows nothing, compared to you. -alreadyGone-
    • Comment 11/19/07: To: Just notified that I'm being downsized due to 'not being marketable'. Just curious: You were working for 60-90 hours/week. For what? Were they billable? If not, you alreay knew why they dropped you. According to your band level and salary, one thing is clear that you need to be promoted at least to B-10 so that they can bill your clients for higher rate. Then you will be safe. For D-16, as long as they can get their money (your salary) back + some profit, they don't give a damn whether you are marketable or not. If you are on bench, they get nothing back! -Puzzled-
    • Comment 11/19/07: Here is the monthly salary survey update:
      • Band 2: 4 respondents, avg: $36K, standard deviation: $9K, range: (min/max reported): $24K to $42K
      • Band 3: 1 respondent, $25K, standard deviation: n/a, range: $25K
      • Band 4: 11 respondents, avg: $46K, standard deviation: $11K, range: $32K to $60K
      • Band 5: 3 respondents, avg: $58K, standard deviation: $16K, range: $48K to $77K
      • Band 6: 32 respondents, avg: $60K, std dev: $10K, range: $39K to $79K
      • Band 7: 65 respondents, avg: $71K, std dev: $13K, range: $49K to $110K
      • Band 8: 68 respondents, avg: $98K, std dev: $16K, range: $55K to $130K
      • Band 9: 32 respondents, avg: $119K, std dev: $18K, range: $89K to $152K
      • Band 10: 11 respondents, avg: $148K, std dev: $25K, range: $107K to $190K

      It has been reported that:

      • Bands 1-5 are non-exempt (overtime-eligible) while bands 6-10 are exempt.
      • The "official" range for band 6 is 39.5K to 80.3K (37.5K starting pay for Fin. Analysts in Rochester, MN)
      • The "official" range for band 7 is 53.4K to 108.5K
      • The "official" range for band 8 (Software Engineer, 01A) is 60K to 144K

      To "Job Hunting": thanks for the data point re FA's starting pay in MN. Have you been looking for another opportunity elsewhere? A colleague of mine in Rochester just got RA'ed last Friday. -Anonymous-

      Alliance Reply: Once again, we thank you, on behalf of all Alliance members for keeping this data up to date. We encourage you to join Alliance@IBM, and help us build this organization for the purpose of helping ALL non-management IBM employees gain a collective voice to collectively bargain a contract that includes fair wages and benefits for IBM workers.

    • Comment 11/21/07: Salary = 88,000; Band Level = 8; Years Service = 20+; Hours/Week = 60+; Div Name = STG; Message = Focus and manage your business. Don't rely on others to make these important decisions for you. The era of "work hard for us and we'll take care of you" ended back before the 80-90 decade transition. Manufactured ratings have become quite creative and it all boils down to where you are in terms of salary and years of service. If you are an "old pensioner", stay off the radar screen, if possible. (and that is a sad admission to have to make but completely true)

      If you have children considering a career path, tell them the truth about IBM. Why would anyone want their children suffering such a fate? IBM lost its soul long ago. They're incredibly talented at smiling for the camera, playing the good corporate citizen game, all the while, treating their citizen employees as sub-human. They are merely "widgets" after all. I'm embarassed of the company that I used to be so proud of. I left IBM and survived, You will as well. My health and mental sanity are far better for it. Truth be told, IBM is indeed the EVIL EMPIRE. May the force be with you. -BackdoorBlue-

    • Comment 11/21/07: Band Level = 7; Job Title = Software engineer; Years Service = 3; Hours/Week = 60+; Div Name = SWG; Message = I've just been promoted to band 7 this month and was told to expect a salary increase with the promotion. I've been lucky enough the last two years to get 2% and 3.3% raise, with excellent evaluations (1's every year) and several peer awards and outside recognition. I reviewed my compensation information today and I received a 3% raise for my promotion, even less than my raise as a band 6. To put it lightly I was shocked. Is this the normal amount received for a promotion? I have talked with several other colleagues and they have stated a range of about 8-12% for their promotions, with 6% being the lowest they ever heard of. I am seriously considering asking for a larger raise. 3% just seems ridiculous and gives no motivation to even try to get another promotion. Can others on this forum post some raise information for promotions, and I would also appreciate any advice on how to go about discussing this with management. -Shocked-
    • Comment 11/21/07: To all band 03's: please give some data for the salary survey. What do you have to lose by disclosing? Or can we conclude there just are not too many band 03's in IBM? -Anonymous-
  • PBC Comments
  • International Comments
Vault Message Board Posts:
Minimize

Vault's IBM Business Consulting Services message board is a popular hangout for IBM BCS employees, including many employees acquired from PwC. A few sample posts follow:

  • "Best Value?" by "pork". Full excerpt: IBM paid $5 billion for Cognos and 3.5 billion for PwC in 2000. Which purchase will be the better value in the long run?
  • "An algebraic response" by "dose of reality". Full excerpt: Any integer to the zero power evaluates to one. This is a perfect case in point. And now for some geometry.... I think the slope on the PwC purchase was probably steeper.

    The best part is that there is no way to ever calculate the post-acquisition economics, because everything just gets swallowed up into the collective, or the blob, depending on which era you like your science fiction.

    Don't you just love strategic BD guys. What do you suppose the bonuses were on getting those deals done, not to mention the IB fees. Over 90% of all acquisitions fail to meet their target economics, and over 75% are net earnings dilutive.

  • "Another Answer" by "ancientblueconsultant". Full excerpt: The value of PwC was the people and the clients. At the end of 5 years, they've squandered the client value and lost most of the human assets. The Cognos acquisition has assets which products and a brand name. If they don't take those out of the market, they'll still have some brand residual value and some products that might still sell.

    Answer: Cognos

    The real answer for the acquisition? One or two more quarters where the measurements can be obfuscated and Sammy can keep his job.

  • "Inclined to agree" by "civilliberty". Full excerpt: The more I observe IBM from the outside, the more they appear as a company that wants to create the illusion of growth and innovation. I don't know how much longer this can go on for, but I suspect the poor old shareholders will end up footing the bill for all of this.

    It seems they purchase a business, then talk it up, rip off it's assets, and send the workers away. In the meantime, they sell their ideas to the market who raise the share price speaking effusively of IBM's direction . Then the big knobs sell their shares to the unsuspecting public and plan their next rape and pillage.

  • "Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory" by "Frank_Reality". Full excerpt: Anything and everything successful that IBM buys rapidly goes right down the crapper. IBM "leadership" continuously manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Buy a succcessful company, get a bonus for execs, obfuscate the company financials, drive the great employees out of the company, unmercifully cut things to the bone, tie up product development in the blue morass, drive the purchased business into the ground then repeat the cycle with another buy.
  • "You are close but not quite correct..." by "Hugh_G_Rection". Full excerpt: I will break out the 'discussions' and add a bit of clarity to a few points mentioned in the insightful posts on this topic.

    First...GBS. IBM has struggled mightily with the integration of PWC into the business...particularly with S&D account coverage. IBM is simply not structured to accommodate the boutique type of thinking and account relationships that PWC brought to the table. In addition, the IBM pay grid does not allow for competitive pay given its' overhead and GEB assigned to this business. The discussion point is to spin off GBS into a 'wholly owned subsidiary' but an outright sale is remote.

    GTS has many product lines...some are doing quite well with maintenance and BCRS leading the way. SO has several troubled areas that are a direct result of SOX non-compliant pricing processes that expose IBM to US Government procurement rules that dictate that the US Government be the lowest purchaser of service. this issue is huge and senior leadership is exposed here. All that aside...the big issue with GTS is that that have two SPLs, (server services and software services) that are hemoraging money. 2,900 practioners creating 80 million dollars in revenue makes you wonder what they are doing....mowing lawns for customers perhaps? IBM set them up by refusing, as another poster points out, to address the Software and Hardware Lab Services doing the exact same work....at cost!! Stupid....yet no action after 6 years of this practice. However there is nothing to 'sell'...there are no hard assets...just the IP of the wonderful folks that try to make that business work. It simply is not going to happen until IBM gets to one model in the marketplace. The SPLs will be, yet again, re-swizzled to mirror the big plays IBM is chasing including security and 'Green' and virtualization...etc.

    S&D account coverage may change as suggested by more than one poster. Actually more direct sales,account based with far fewer staff sales functions are in the cards. Yes....leveraged sales plans will be sharply curtailed and limited to reps that cover cash producing accounts.

    I hope this helps...December 10th or so for internal announcements...

  • "IBM GBS vs. Big Four Advisory" by "jobseeker5004". Full excerpt: I currently have two entry level consulting offers on the table. One is from a big four consulting firm in their advisory practice, which is starting to really grow, and the other is with IBM GBS in a sector that is very selective and hard to get into.

    The salary difference is pretty significant. Including bonuses, IBM is offering $8,000 more and might possibly negotiate higher. The big four job is for a plethora of different tech related jobs which could really help to make one a jockey of all trades. The IBM is secular and just involves working in an ERP.

    Please let me know what you guys think would be a better pick. Also the IBM job staffs nationally, and the Advisory job staffs regionally with less travel. If were to go with IBM, do you feel I would be less valuable in the market place in say 2-3 years than if I were to go with the Big Four firm.

  • "Reality check" by "Dose of reality". Full excerpt: ERP is a commodity skill set now, especially the way we do it. You will not do BPR here, we slam it in and sell hardware and/or outsourcing. Your job will be to babysit a bunch of clueless offshore tech-heads.

    When you compare packages, assume that the bonus “target” included in your offer will not get paid out. They are always contingent on divisional profitability, and the targets are always set so high so as to never get paid. BEST case is 1 – 3%, unless you have a sugar daddy (or mommy).

    The IBM brand has deteriorated, and the worst is yet to come. We are a third rate, third world tech shop – forget all the marketing hype. The PwC influence is long gone.

    Big 4 would be a better choice – at least there the work is grounded in business process, and the recruiting standards are higher.

    If you really want to work in this industry, acquire skills, and learn how to consult, the best thing to do is to work for a boutique.

    Spend some time reading the old posts on this forum, and you will get a very complete, and often humorous picture of the environment here. Ignore it at your own peril. Dozens have done so, and returned to this forum kicking themselves for getting suckered in by the IBM brand. Good luck!

  • "I worked for IBM" by "civilliberty". Full excerpt: IBM is not the place to start or grow a career, of any sort.

    Based on my experience, if I were to employ a person, it's unlikely I would view an ex-IBMer favourabley (unless they had experience outside of IBM). They really don't consult - they implement technical solutions. They don't look to add business value, so you won't develop business consulting skills - which are arguably more important these days in the eyes of potential employers than the technical skillset where you can get cheaper resources in the market to design and code from a well tailored functional/business specification (that's the ideal, the reality is though that outsourcing is sub-standard and is unlikely ever be as good as or cheap as in-house development).

    Choose an employer that will offer a well-rounded career - mid-tier/boutique is the way to go in my opinion.

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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