I realize that U.S. companies generally don't do the co-CEO thing, and that the ideal solution for a company in HP's current position could well be a single strong-willed CEO. But it's not like HP is some deeply troubled company that's lost touch with the marketplace and its customers; quite the contrary. HP's got some tremendous assets at its disposal—people, technology, financial muscle, global brand, committed customers, and vast opportunities—as well as strong momentum in the marketplace proven by its 11% revenue growth last quarter.
On top of that, it's also true that while Rometty has run huge portions of IBM's business, she hasn't been a CEO; and that while Andreessen has been a CEO, those stints were with startups he launched whose revenue never approached even 1% of HP's current revenue.
Consider three quick points before we take a closer look at the backgrounds of these prospective co-CEOs:
1) Andreessen is something of an insider at HP by virtue of his position on the board following its 2007 acquisition of one of his startups, OpsWare, for $1.6 billion. That connection would mollify some board members obsessed with clinging to "the HP Way," and provide a semblance of continuity for many employees.
2) Rometty, while not widely known in the industry, has compiled an extraordinary track record at IBM and would by any measure have to be regarded as a leading candidate to succeed IBM CEO Sam Palmisano when he retires. She would bring to HP a trove of extremely valuable insights into strategic issues outside of traditional IT, customer connections, and business consulting.
3) The Andreessen-Rometty combo wouldn't have to try to, as they say at HP, boil the ocean all by themselves: the companies got some great leaders reporting to the CEO, and in particular CFO Lesjak can be counted on to provide strong and unwavering leadership for finance and some operations.
Andreessen became a college-aged IT celebrity with his co-founding role at Netscape, and later with as a co-founder of both Ning and Opsware. With all three companies, as well as with his current full-time gig as cofounder and general partner of VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, he has proven himself to be someone who sees the implications and applications of emerging technologies more quickly and more clearly than just about anyone else.
That vision will be essential as HP looks to go complement the width and breadth of its product line with forward-looking technology combinations and innovations that can showcase it as something far beyond the supply-chain-driven "infrastructure company" that Hurd famously positioned HP as just 10 months ago.
Complementing that is Rometty's deep experience as a business strategist who happens to be in the technology industry—while Andreessen is an extraordinary IT geek to his very soul, Rometty is one of IBM's few top executives who hasn't spent her entire career at IBM (she spent the first part of her career at General Motors). She brings expertise in business process, business transformation, and vertical-industry specialties, which are precisely the sorts of non-IT smarts that HP needs to become increasingly valuable to its global enterprise customers.
Here are a few gems from her bio (I've put in boldface certain sections I feel are particularly relevant to what she could bring to HP):
With its size and market presence, HP is anything but a typical company, and its combined challenges and market opportunities are certainly unique as well. Maybe what it needs for its next phase of growth and innovation is an equally unconventional leadership structure.
Bob Evans is senior VP and director of
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