Last October, IBM completed the acquisition of PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting for a price of $3.5 billion in cash and stock, creating the world’s largest consulting-services company. The merger, which involves 30,000 employees in more than 160 countries, is an aggressive move by IBM to augment its position in the technology-services industry and become one of the world’s leading professional-services companies. Overseeing this effort is general manager Ginni Rometty, a 20-year IBMer and founding member of its business-and-IT consulting division. This month, Rometty is in the hot seat.

Why now? “This was a very strategic acquisition and a part of the journey we’ve been on to change the face of IBM: This merger helps us become even more of a services-led business.”

Why them? “We could have looked at other options — PwC experienced a recent decline in revenue clearly linked to auditor independence. But that could be reversed by changing ownership of the firm. The key thing is that we have the same vision: We both believe that clients want a partner who can conceive an idea, build a strategy, operate business processes as well as the technology, and take accountability for delivering the benefits.

“We have a wonderful complementary set of industry process skills. IBM had built strong technology services, a global applications business, and strength in outsourcing. PwC built business-advisory services, application skills, and process skills. This isn’t about making them stronger. We’re creating something new together — a new category of service for clients that’s completely end to end.

“This merger is not about compromising. It is about combining a strong services culture and a strong sales culture. The hard question is how to create something new from both sides.

“Speed is important. Everyone we talked to said, move fast. Pick an operating model, pick leaders, have closure in two months. The faster you take the uncertainty out, the higher your odds for retention — and for people staying excited about what they do. This is a business of people. If you can’t integrate, no amount of money can make it worthwhile.

“I call what we did ‘adopt and go.’ I liked PwC’s business processes, so we went with theirs and integrated IBMers into it. We looked at their leadership and wanted to retain the strong talent they’d built. And we knew that seeing familiar leaders would help make PwCers feel comfortable in the new company, so we put them in key positions.

“The challenge is to stay focused on things that impact clients and not get distracted by internal integration issues. We still have an integration project office, and we’ll have it until every aspect of integration is completed.

“How will we know we’ve arrived? That’s something that your clients vote on: when they turn to you — and then continue to turn to you over time.”