IBM Watson head leaves role amid struggles, declining revenue

As Watson has undergone close scrutiny over the past year, leader Deborah DiSanzo is moving to IBM Cognitive Solutions’ strategy team.
By Jessica Davis
03:29 PM

IBM Watson Health division head Deborah DiSanzo is stepping down and will move into a role on IBM Cognitive Solutions’ strategy team, an IBM spokesperson confirmed to Healthcare IT News in an emailed statement.


IBM Cognitive Solutions and IBM Research Senior Vice President John Kelly will lead the department moving forward. Kelly currently oversees Watson Health and its work in the healthcare sector and other efforts. Kelly has been with IBM for 20 years.

DiSanzo, a former Philips Healthcare CEO, joined IBM Watson in September 2015. At the time, many were investing in the tech and Watson was seen as a potential savior to unlocking big data.


While the spokesperson did not explain the reason for the leadership change, Watson has seen several negative reports throughout this year. And just last week, the company saw a 6 percent drop in earnings during the same time period in 2017, despite some recent growth in the tech.

And overall, IBM’s revenue fell 2 percent year over year.

Stat was the first to report the news and was also the first to note some of Watson’s struggles to deliver on its well-renowned potential. One report noted Watson’s track record, while others called into question potential safety risks.

IBM responded to some of those concerns, calling it “inaccurate” to suggest Watson hasn’t made enough progress.

"IBM has never shied away from grand challenges, and we know they don’t happen overnight and are not easy," Kelly said at the time. "Our work is only getting started."

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