A History of Apple’s Organizational Structure

Apple’s Functional Management Structure

Apple’s functional structure stands out from the other tech giants, such as Facebook, Microsoft and Google, who run a more traditional shop structured around key products.

SVPs responsible for certain functions at Apple are charged with working together on products and reporting up to the CEO in a structure designed to stop competition over resources, and encourage collaboration and innovation.

The structure also mitigates the need to meet short-term profit targets, with teams responsible for technological developments on a range of products – not just the commercial success of one. Senior R&D executives receive bonuses based on total company performance, rather than certain product performance, creating a more holistic environment.

With this approach, the company has grown from 8,000 employees and $7 billion in revenue in 1997, when Jobs returned, to 137,000 employees and $260 billion in revenue in 2019.

Tim Cook Takes Over

In 2011, Apple’s Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook was named CEO when Steve Jobs stepped down from the role.

Previously responsible for the company’s worldwide sales and operations, Cook - like Jobs before him - restructured the multinational company on stepping into the role.

Where Jobs made almost all decisions, Cook gave VPs more autonomy and decision making power. He divided hardware functions into hardware engineering and hardware technologies, added artificial intelligence and machine learning as a functional area, and moved human interface from software into industrial design.

As the company continued to grow, so too did the size of its teams. Choosing to keep collaboration between VPs as smooth as possible, the company has attempted to minimize the number of VPs, which has seen the leaders responsible for swelling numbers of employees. In 2006, the company had around 17,000 employees and by 2019 that number had grown to 137,000. At the same time, the number of VPs only doubled, from 50 to 96. It was in 2007 that growth really kicked off.

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The Team That Launched the iPhone

2007 marked a new chapter, if not a whole new book, for Apple: the iPhone came to life.

At the time, Apple had an executive team of six members, including Jobs. At his side were Phil Schiller, Eddy Cue, Jony Ive, Tony Fadell and Scott Forstall. Fast forward to today, and that executive team is 17. Schiller and Cue are the only two of the team that remain at the company. Schiller, an Apple Fellow, is currently responsible for leading the App Store and Apple Events.

For the past 30 years, Schiller has helped guide Apple’s products and marketing and was responsible for the iPod’s beloved click wheel. Cue, who joined the company in 1989, is now SVP, Internet Software and Services and reports directly to CEO Tim Cook. He oversees the company’s content stores, including iTunes Store and Apple Music, and Apple Pay, Maps, Search Ads, Apple’s iCloud services, and productivity and creativity apps.

Ive, who was one of Apple’s longest standing and highest-ranking designers, left the company in 2019. Fadell, one of the visionaries behind the iPod and iTunes, left the company in 2018 citing personal reasons. And Forstall, who was once touted to be Jobs’ replacement as CEO, left in 2013 after the unsuccessful launch of Apple Maps.

However, Cook, Schiller and Cue aren’t the only longstanding leaders at the company; Greg “Joz” Joswiak, SVP, Worldwide Marketing, started his career at Apple in 1986 and has played a pivotal role in developing and launching some of the company’s most iconic products.

Deirdre O’Brien joined in 1988, and is now Apple’s SVP, Retail and People, reporting to CEO Tim Cook. In her role leading the People team, O’Brien helps Apple connect, develop and care for its employees, and is responsible for a range of people focused functions.

In 1995, Sabih Khan, current SVP, Operations, came onboard, then in 1998, now-Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams started with the company.

SVP, Hardware Engineering John Ternus came to Apple in 2001 as a member of the Product Design team. Then in 2008, now SVP, Hardware Technologies Johny Srouji came onboard. The other two current execs who were at Apple before Cook took over are Isabel Ge Mahe, VP and Managing Director of Greater China, who joined in 2008, and Adrian Perica, VP, Corporate Development, who came onboard in 2009.

All in all, more than two-thirds of Apple’s current executive team have been with the company for more than a decade, with four having been there for more than three decades. Due to the functional organization of the company, employees are encouraged to develop good working relationships and rise through the ranks as they grow in expertise -- leading to the celebration of lots of employee anniversaries.

Refreshing the Organization

Since Cook took over as CEO, five new faces have joined Apple and joined the ranks of senior leadership. Luca Maestri, SVP and Chief Financial Officer, came to Apple in 2013 as VP of Finance and Corporate Controller. In the same year, former Obama-appointed Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency Lisa Jackson joined the company to oversee Apple’s efforts to minimize its impact on the environment.

In 2016, Tor Myhren arrived from Grey and now heads the Marketing Communications group as VP. Then the next year, Katherine Adams, SVP and General Counsel, joined Apple from Honeywell and now leads Legal and Global Security.

The most recent addition to Apple’s leadership team is John Giannandrea, who made the leap from Google in 2018 to oversee Apple’s strategy for artificial intelligence and machine learning as SVP Machine Learning and AI Strategy.

Despite the growth in numbers in Apple’s executive team over the years, it hasn’t meant any lessening of responsibilities. Since 1998, Apple’s core functionalities have gone from eight (hardware, software, marketing, operations, services and support, sales, finance and legal) to 17 in 2019. Now there are SVPs and VPs for design, hardware engineering, hardware technologies, software, services, machine learning and AI, marketing, marketing communication, operations, sales, retail, people, finance, legal, corporate communications, environment, policy and social, and corporate development.

Although sticking with the functional structure, whereby leaders are experts in the areas covered by their teams, a growth in responsibilities has meant those leaders now have to expand their knowledge and skills, and delegate.

Supporting the executive team is Apple’s eight member Board of Directors. Three members are acting CEOs and two are former Chairman and CEOs of global companies. The board includes U.S. Vice President Albert Gore Jr., former CFO and Corporate President The Boeing Company James A. Bell and co-founder and Director of BlackRock Susan Wagner.

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