Tivoli Bleeds Top Executives

Several top executives have left Tivoli in recent months, prompting the company to reorganize and regroup.

The most recent emigrants left earlier this month: Tom Bishop, the company's chief technology officer, and Mark McClain, the vice president of marketing.

They join a list that includes Martin Neath, former executive vice president; Mike O'Rourke, former vice president of packaged solutions; Phil Sheridan, former product line manager; and Mike Turner, former vice president of enterprise business solutions.

In response, Tivoli is eliminating some of the vacant positions. The enterprise, packaged solutions and mainframe business units are being folded into the core business unit. Other surviving business units focus on embedded systems, the Internet, network computing and storage.

While Tivoli remains one of the strongest players in network and systems management, the departures come at a time when industry observers are criticizing the company for failing to communicate a coherent "vision" to the market.

"Tivoli may have one, but it certainly escapes me," says Paul Mason, vice president of infrastructure software research at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Massachusetts. Though Tivoli has introduced software to help manage extranets, Mason says the company needs to do more along those lines.

"You need more than just product. You need to communicate a compelling vision to the outside world," says Richard Ptak, vice president of systems and application management at Hurwitz Group in Framingham, Massachusetts. "Tivoli hasn't had that for a couple of years."

Bishop calls the criticisms an "unfair rap," pointing out that Tivoli was touting end-to-end enterprise management and application management before other vendors.

Insiders say there wasn't any one event that triggered the exodus from Tivoli. The company just grew up. It was a US$50 million company before it was acquired by IBM in 1996, and it quickly found itself with revenue in excess of $1 billion.

Tivoli lost its small-company feel. In a small company, individuals can make a greater impact on the business.

Inevitably, Tivoli took on the increased levels of management and bureaucracy that come with a larger company. Some people interpreted the changes as IBM's influence.

"For a while, I think Tivoli kept IBM at arm's length -- but over time, Tivoli became more like IBM," says one Tivoli executive who recently left and asked not to be named. "Tivoli still has a lot of autonomy, but within Tivoli there was this staunch feeling of independence. Anytime a new policy would be implemented, there was always this idea that it was this creeping IBM-ism that was overtaking the place."

Most of the executives who left went to start-ups.

Next Steps

Industry watchers note that the departures create a substantial vacuum. Neath oversaw the development and marketing, and he had been a prominent figure at Tivoli during his nine years there.

So far, users haven't seen much of an impact, but they are watching closely. Glen Barry, project leader of a very recent Tivoli implementation at United Parcel Service, is encouraged that Neath's replacement, Bob Yellin, seems to have a depth of experience in development and operations.

"I'm fairly optimistic," Barry says.

Yellin has been with the company for just six months, but he worked with Tivoli when he was with Legent in the early '90s.

Bishop, the most recent executive to jump ship, insists that he wasn't looking for another opportunity. But his new start-up, which applies Web technology to foster care and other humanitarian endeavors, was interesting "both personally and professionally."

He adds that he is leaving the company in good hands. "I can hand over the responsibility to people with experience," he says.

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