IBM Top Massachusetts Official Mohamad Ali Leaves for Big Job at Avaya

Mohamad Ali, IBM’s senior state official for Massachusetts, has left Big Blue after more than 13 years to join enterprise communications equipment company Avaya, Ali announced in a personal e-mail this afternoon. Ali, who started at Avaya on Wednesday with the title of senior vice president of corporate development, has responsibility for all M&A activity for the New Jersey-based company as he seeks to help it overtake Cisco as the leader in enterprise communications equipment, he said in a phone call this afternoon.

“That’s going to be my key role here initially, to drive the M&A,” he says. He also will play a leading role in Avaya’s strategic partnership activities, among other responsibilities, and report directly to CEO Kevin Kennedy.

Ali, our newest Xconomist, says he has also joined the board of Boston-based Ember, which makes wireless mesh-networking chipsets for communications between devices such as thermostats and utility meters.

Joining Avaya, an AT&T spinoff, offers “an opportunity to participate in and shape a whole new era of intelligent communications for healthcare, financial services, government and other industries,” said Ali in his note. Avaya was taken private after agreeing to an $8.2 billion buyout by Silver Lake and TPG Capital in June of 2007. “This represents a unique opportunity to potentially participate in one of the largest IPOs in the coming years,” Ali said in his e-mail.

Ali’s departure takes away one of IBM’s most visible and eloquent representatives in the Bay State. He has built a reputation as a leading thinker on innovation, taking an active role in how Massachusetts can position itself for further technology leadership—and drew accolades for his appearance last month on IBM’s half at XSITE, the Xconomy Summit on Innovation, Technology, and Leadership.

He also led IBM’s worldwide software M&A activities, and last year his group accounted for more than half of IBM’s entire M&A efforts. Additionally, Ali’s team was behind IBM’s 2007 acquisition of Canadian business intelligence software firm Cognos for just under $5 billion, the largest deal in Big Blue’s history.

He will continue wearing his M&A hat at Avaya. The whole communications market is in turmoil, and old players are in trouble, he says—and Cisco, the leader in enterprise communications equipment, is clearly in his sights. “There’s a tremendous opportunity for Avaya to come out of this as the strongest player in this market space,” he told me.

In addition to his M&A responsibilities, Ali says he will be in charge of Avaya’s strategic partnerships, as well as organic emerging products. “That means home grown ones that aren’t necessarily part of the core offering today—so adjacent space expansion,” he says.

Even though Avaya is based in Basking Ridge, NJ, Ali will be remaining in the Bay State, working initially out of Avaya’s Waltham offices (the company also has offices in Chelmsford). He will continue to serve on the board of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council, among other non-profit activities.

“I’m so passionate about the Boston area. There’s this tremendous asset base, all this capability. And turning that into a powerhouse, it seems like we’re always just missing it a little bit,” he says. “And there’s no reason for it. I really want to help that transformation.”

Bob is Xconomy's founder and chairman. You can email him at [email protected] Follow @bbuderi

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