IBM Source: Layoffs Fewer Than Feared, Just In Excess Of 10,000 Globally

A day after employees took to social media sharing firsthand stories suggesting IBM had begun a large round of job cuts, a source within the company told CRN on Thursday the layoffs will not be nearly as widespread as some feared.

Big Blue is cutting a percentage of its roughly 370,000-strong workforce in the "low single digits," meaning the extent of the layoffs globally will likely be just in excess of 10,000 workers, according to a source within the company who asked not to be identified.

While not directly addressing the layoffs, IBM, via email, described to CRN a dynamic in which the company was rejigging the skill sets of its employee base.

[Related: IBM Has Been Going Full Steam Ahead Since PartnerWorld Conference]

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"IBM is aggressively transforming its business to lead in a new era of cognitive and cloud computing. This includes remixing skills to meet client requirements," IBM said. "To this end, IBM hired more than 70,000 professionals in 2015, many in these key skills areas, and currently has more than 25,000 open positions."

Also on Thursday, Reuters reported Big Blue was planning to cash out a large portion of its holdings in Lenovo.

IBM will put up for sale up to $150 million in Lenovo stock, according to the news service. Lenovo acquired IBM's x86 server business in October 2014 in a $2.1 billion deal, with $280 million going to IBM in the form of the Chinese PC-maker's stock.

On Wednesday, on a Facebook page that serves as a forum for IBM workers called Watching IBM, employees reported that the ax was falling across multiple locations and divisions of the company. Stoking employee consternation was a recent change in IBM's severance policy that reduced severance payments from six months to one, according to the posts.

One employee posted on the Watching IBM page: "I am a GTS Strategic Outsourcing casualty of the mass firing today. My manager told me it was big and widespread, and I'd be hearing from a lot of people that will also be notified today."

That employee was given 90 days until an official end date, and received a one-month severance package, according to the post.

Such reports suggest many of the cuts might come from Big Blue's consulting and services arms -- Global Business Services and Global Technology Services.

While job losses and employee unease about job security is always unfortunate, it's possible the company's channel will benefit by being asked to pick up some slack in delivering consulting services, said Kevin Goodman, managing director at BlueBridge Networks, a hosting provider based in Cleveland that partners with IBM.

"This gap that comes [from] growth, change and innovation also provides smaller regional boutique shops and providers like our company, BlueBridge Networks, the opportunity to provide service and meet and exceed business and IT objectives in the areas not filled by the void," Goodman told CRN.

The source inside IBM said the company has been increasing the number of its developers who work directly with channel partners, "and you can expect that to continue."

Goodman told CRN that any time a company backs off from an aspect of their services and consulting business, especially those focused on the SMB market, "there are players like us who are ready, willing and able to pick up the opportunities and serve them as we would to large enterprise-class companies."

IBM, like other established tech companies, needs to continue reinventing to maintain a leadership position in the digital age, with its ever-changing technology landscape, Goodman said.

IBM "continues to demonstrate the way to get to personalization in the world is by taking cloud platforms and infusing them with cognition and delivering them as a service. Much of what they do seems to reinforce this," Goodman said. "I fully expect IBM and other more established players in the digital age to take on new roles in the ecosystem in a nontraditional way to their DNA."