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Commentary
8/7/2010
01:36 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary
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Global CIO: Burying Mark Hurd: Hewlett-Packard And Its Future

After five years of frosty technocratic rule, HP needs a fiery and charismatic leader who can devise and deliver a compelling vision worthy of the world's largest IT company.

Hurd's failure to devise and/or articulate to the world HP's overarching vision and strategy.

We know that HP's the world's largest IT company with projected fiscal 2010 revenue of $125 billion, and we know that it's acquired the companies mentioned above as well as some others, and we know that one of the qualities for which HP is best known is that it's the world's top seller of PC's.

But what we don't know—what Hurd occasionally feinted at but never really put forth—is the HP vision for being not just the biggest but the most-valuable and most-influential and most-indispensable IT company in the world.

What we don't know is how is HP different—aside from being bigger—from IBM and Oracle and Dell? How will it compete with or overtake IBM in analytics and high-end servers and cloud strategies? How will it respond to or ignore or leapfrog Oracle's drive into purpose-built optimized systems?

Other than being bigger than Cisco or Accenture or EMC, how does HP offer more business value to CIOs than those companies? How will it continue to do so in two years, four years, 10 years?

Larry Ellison frequently talks about the arc of Oracle's strategy over a number of years. IBM CEO Sam Palmisano and his Smarter Planet strategy provided his company with not just an incredibly catchy and slick marketing mantra but also an all-encompassing framework against which IBM's products and services and future directions could be placed in a powerful context.

HP's former CEO never did that. The closest he came was in October last year during a presentation at a Gartner event when, after giving a presentation focused solely on HP's attributes as the broadest-based infrastructure provider in the world, he was asked if that meant that his strategic vision for HP was for it to become "the infrastructure company." Here's his answer from our column, Global CIO: Hewlett-Packard CEO Hurd's Strategy: The Infrastructure Company:

"That's right. That is accurate. Because for us—you had these stats up here: in the next four years, twice as much data as you have today. Double the digitization every 18 months. Double the text messages volume in the next three years. The infrastructure that has to support all that content—all that content that has to be processed, stored, moved, shared, visualized—and, we love it when it's printed—and we like to have the consumer and the enterprise services to support those ecosystems," Hurd said. "That ecosystem I just described is HP."

Without question, there'll be a massive demand for technologies that can handle the data explosion and information explosion several companies have described: IBM, SAP, EMC, Intel, Oracle, and HP itself. But is the big play for that future limited to infrastructure? To the very types of servers and storage that HP itself says are on an inevitable path toward convergence?

But again, I must give the former CEO his due: the EDS acquisition extended HP's reach well outside of infrastructure, as did that of Palm's WebOS, as did HP's aggressive incursions into placing high-growth self-serve photo-processing and –printing facilities within hundreds of Wal-Mart stores.

Why did Hurd never wrap all that up into a big vision for the company? Why wasn't he able to say, as Hewlett-Packard EVP, CTO, and chief strategy officer Shane Robison did in a recent interview, that the key to maximizing the value of all that stuff would be analytics?

Why, at the company's annual meeting earlier this year, did the former CEO allude generally to the rise in HP's services business without telling investors and the world, quite specifically, how those services would be leveraged against HP's vast technology lineup?

I have two theories, both of which play directly into what HP has to do in blasting past the atmosphere and outlook and in some ways culture instilled by Hurd. And while I'm not a psychiatrist and I don't play one on TV, I'm going to take a potentially dangerous step into armchair psychology because these points bear very directly on the new type of leadership that is indispensable to HP:

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