InformationWeek surveyed IT professionals about HP's recent change in course. Bottom line: They want to believe in HP--but don't understand where it's headed.
We posed a more detailed question that asked where IT pros would like to see HP put more emphasis. Here more than anywhere else, the desires of IT pros for what HP should do and become look out of alignment with the strategy HP seems to be pursuing. The two top desired areas for investment that IT pros mentioned are printers and servers--not exactly what Apotheker wants for HP's image. Worse, number three on the list is classic personal devices, the very division Apotheker wants to sell. Services, enterprise applications, business process consulting, security software, and operations consulting--all areas where Apotheker would like to see HP excel--show up at the bottom of the list, even behind the now much maligned webOS.
It's not surprising then, that when we asked IT pros to grade HP's board of directors and CEO, they said C- and D+ respectively. This is serious business for IT pros, as HP is one of their most strategic vendors. In fact, HP ties with Dell and Cisco as the second most strategic vendor, behind Microsoft. That puts HP ahead of blue chips IBM, Oracle, and EMC, and well ahead of new wave favorites like Apple and Google.
While there have been cheerleaders and naysayers for Mark Hurd's stewardship of HP, our next four questions reveal just how powerful the brand is--and most of that good will was built up or at least well maintained during Hurd's tenure. We asked IT pros to rank vendor preference in a number of categories, and the worst HP did in our lists was come in fourth. HP is the most preferred vendor for servers and printers. It ranks second behind Dell for end user systems (Apple comes in third there.) HP ranks third in services, behind Microsoft and IBM, and fourth in data center management software, behind VMware, Microsoft, and IBM/Tivoli.
The bottom line revealed by our survey results: IT pros want to believe in HP, but don't even begin to know where HP is heading or how it intends to get there. As for what IT pros do understand of the strategy, it looks to be exactly the opposite direction from what's desired.
Commenters generally voiced strong opinions in our HP survey, some speaking of incompetence in the CEO office, and some going so far as to suggest that Apotheker should be fired. Others questioned various aspects of HP's actions and said that they were unable to discern the company's new course.
But as much as anything else, commenters expressed sadness at what they saw as serious and potentially irreparable damage to a once great company. IT pros, perhaps like no one else, have a warm place in their hearts for HP.
For its historically poor marketing, its tendency to name products with odd combinations of numbers and letters that mean nothing to its customers, and its legendary ability to build well-designed, solid products, IT pros like HP. But that affection has its limits. Based on our survey results, Leo Apotheker has a short window to announce a coherent and realistic strategy, and not too much more time to make it a reality.
Art Wittmann is director of InformationWeek Analytics, a portfolio of decision-support tools and analyst reports. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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