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Global CIO: The HP CEO Dream Team: Andreessen & IBM's Rometty

Board member Adreessen's tech vision and Rometty's strategic insight and high-level sales savvy could unlock HP's vast potential.
HP board member and proven technology visionary Marc Andreessen, and IBM's superb business strategist and customer-facing executive Ginni Rometty.

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.

But.

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):

  • "Ginni Rometty is the senior vice president, Enterprise Business Services, a business unit created in July 2005. EBS encompasses the business value services of IBM's Global Services business, including Business Consulting Services which focuses on consulting and systems integration, business transformation outsourcing and application services. She also has responsibility for the overall strategy and business development for Global Services, including advanced services solutions, the services asset strategy, and acquisition strategy."

  • "Ms. Rometty was previously Managing Partner, Business Consulting Services, leading the formation of the industry's largest team of business consultants and services experts specializing in helping clients leverage world-class information technology to optimize business performance. Here she led a cross-IBM focus to build strategy and capability to address the Business Performance Transformation Services marketplace, a $500 billion opportunity outside the traditional IT marketplace."

  • "Prior to this, she was general manager of IBM Global Services, Americas. Leading a team of more than 75,000 professionals, Ms. Rometty was responsible for strategic leadership, operations and client relationships of the Global Services business in the United States, Canada and Latin America. Ms. Rometty has also served as the general manager of strategy, marketing and sales operations for IBM Global Services worldwide."

  • "Ms. Rometty reports to the IBM Chairman, and serves on his Worldwide Management Council and Senior Leadership Team. She is also a member of IBM's strategy and operations teams."

    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.

    RECOMMENDED READING:

    Global CIO: Burying Mark Hurd: Hewlett-Packard And Its Future

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    Global CIO: Hewlett-Packard CEO Hurd's Strategy: The Infrastructure Company

    Global CIO: Why Hewlett-Packard Must Articulate Its Enterprise Strategy

    Global CIO: An Open Letter To Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd

    Global CIO: In Praise Of Mark Hurd's 9,000 Layoffs At Hewlett-Packard

    Global CIO: Hewlett-Packard's Missing Link Is Analytics

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    Global CIO: Are Oracle, HP, Cisco & IBM Too Big To Innovate?

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    GlobalCIO Bob Evans is senior VP and director of InformationWeek's Global CIO unit.

    To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page.

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