IBM Layoffs Hit Marketing, Communications Staff As AI Charge Continues: Report

IBM is reportedly laying off employees in its communications and marketing division as the company looks toward AI to replace non-customer-facing roles.

Last year, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna said he planned to suspend or slow hiring for about 26,000 non-customer-facing back-office roles—which amounted to roughly 10 percent of the company’s total workforce—that AI and automation can do instead of people.

Krishna said he “could easily see” 30 percent of those roles—roughly 8,000 employees—replaced by AI and automation over the five years.

When questioned about the layoffs, an IBM spokesperson said that during its fourth-quarter earnings report in January IBM had indicated layoffs could be ahead .

[Related: IBM’s Deep Dive Into AI: CEO Arvind Krishna Touts The ‘Massive’ Enterprise Opportunity For Partners]ADVERTISEMENT

“In 4Q earnings earlier this year, IBM disclosed a workforce rebalancing charge that would represent a very low-single-digit percentage of IBM’s global workforce, and we expect to exit 2024 at roughly the same level of employment as we entered with,” IBM told CRN in a statement.

CNBC was first to report on the new IBM layoffs in marketing and communications.

In early 2023, Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM laid off approximately 3,900 employees. IBM told CRN at the time that the layoffs were related to its Kyndryl spin-off and health-care divestitures.

IBM CEO: Enterprise AI ‘Is A Massive Market’ Opportunity

AI is one of IBM’s biggest market opportunities, Krishna told CRN this year. Specifically, the enterprise AI market is a massive sales and customer opportunity for IBM and its channel partners.

“This is a massive market,” said Krishna. “When I look at all the estimates … the numbers are so big that it is hard for most people to comprehend them. … That tells you that there is a lot of opportunity for a large number of us.”

He touted IBM’s Wastonx platform as an AI offering that’s generating business today.

“It is going to generate business value for our clients,” Krishna said. “Our Watsonx platform to really help developers, whether it’s code, whether it’s modernization, all those things. … these are areas where, for our partners … they’ll be looking at this and say, ‘This is how we can bring a lot of innovation to our clients and help their business along the way.’”

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