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Longtime IBM consulting exec departing amid reorganization

Paul Lewis, general manager of Big Blue's Global Services consulting group, resigns to pursue other interests.

A key executive who helped build IBM's consulting practice over the past decade is leaving the company amid big changes.

Paul Lewis, general manager of IBM Global Services' consulting division, has resigned to pursue other interests, said spokesman Tim Palmer. Co-founder Lewis spent the last nine years building the consulting group, which along with IBM's systems integration unit, will be folded into a new Business Innovations Services division.

Under a reorganization plan intended to help the company speed its delivery time, IBM Global Services will have just three divisions instead of many separate units. Folding systems integration in with consulting will help the two groups work more closely together, Palmer said.

IBM is among many old-line firms, including EDS, Andersen Consulting and KPMG, that are restructuring to become more nimble in the Internet economy.

Not that IBM isn't already succeeding in e-business. The company's e-business revenues are expected to top $3 billion this year, a notable chunk of IBM's expected $90 billion in total revenues. But with 130,000 consultants and the largest services practice in the world, IBM may find it difficult to streamline its many complicated units--viewed as small parts of a huge puzzle run by scores of mid-level executives.

Meta Group analyst Stan Lepeak said IBM Global Services "needs to a do a lot more folding."

"They have huge talent but no one coordinating it," he said. "They're like a herd of cats. I can't even keep track of which group is which."

Tom Rodenhauser, industry analyst at ConsultingInfo.com, said the structure of IBM's consulting practice, which had functioned as a separate unit, had become antiquated as Big Blue shifted its focus from selling hardware and software to pitching a vision for doing business on the Web.

"E-business demands blended consulting and systems expertise," he said. "In the e-services space, it doesn't pay to have separate divisions focusing on e-strategy or consulting."

The IBM new unit will be led by Frank Roney, a six-year company veteran and former general manager of global operations at IBM Global Services. Lewis was involved in planning for the reorganization, which was announced to IBM employees last month, Palmer said.

Industry analysts say they suspect it won't be long before the well-respected Lewis lands at a start-up. Many of his industry peers, including former colleague Bob Howe, who left to head start-up Scient, have already followed that path.

"[Lewis] has got as many opportunities as there are integrators," said Susan Scrupski-Miranda, industry analyst and head of IT Services Advisory.