IBM Looks To Adkins To Calm Partner Relations In Wake Of Moffat Arrest

Moffat, senior vice president and group executive at IBM, and five other people, including an Intel executive and several investment managers, are facing charges of insider trading stemming from an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

IBM on Monday named Adkins acting head of the Systems and Technology Group after putting Moffat on leave. Adkins is currently head of IBM's system development and manufacturing, a role he will continue, according to an IBM spokesperson.

Adkins is a bright and talented executive, and will do well for the channel regardless of whether he is handling IBM's hardware business on an interim or a permanent basis, said Joe Mertens, president of Sirius Computer Solutions, a San Antonio, Texas-based solution provider and IBM partner.

"Adkins has always been an advocate for the channel, certainly in the vein of Bill Zeitler, Moffat's predecessor," Mertens said.

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This could be a chance for IBM to improve its channel relationships, said Pete Elliot, director of marketing at Key Information Systems, a Woodland Hills, Calif.-based solution provider and IBM partner.

IBM has had great channel relationships compared to those of competitors such as Sun Microsystems or Hewlett-Packard, but all vendors are below what they could be doing, Elliot said.

"The manufacturers, distributors and VARs should be looking at ways we can reinvent ourselves," he said. "We should be looking at ways to better the industry."

Adkins should also be looking at ways to make sure IBM is making the case about the importance of its hardware business in the wake of comments in the past by IBM CEO Sam Palmisano that IBM is focused on software and services, Elliot said.

"IBM is also a hardware company," he said. "[Palmisano] can't be going around saying IBM isn't a hardware company. At the end of the day, a lot of customers will think, if IBM is not going to be a hardware company, maybe we should look at HP."

Moffat's going on leave is a nonevent for the channel, as IBM has a lot of executives who can play lots of roles, said one solution provider who preferred to remain anonymous.

"IBM, as you can see, can put someone into his role pretty quickly," the solution provider said. "Bob Moffat's position was above that which impacted the channel, and all the channel processes were in place already. I don't think this will have any impact. But that's not a statement on Bob Moffat."

However, said another solution provider who also requested anonymity, IBM has to come out and address what happened to Moffat, as the indictment tarnishes IBM's reputation.

"The news came out Friday, but IBM didn't say anything," the solution provider said. "A lot of people really believe in IBM. They're really passionate. Who at IBM will step up and say, 'Here's what's happening?' Moffat's innocent until proven guilty. But who at IBM will address it?"