Business-technology executives looking to learn something from Hewlett-Packard CIO Robert Napier, who died Oct. 13 after a fight with cancer, should remember this quote: "Every business decision triggers an IT event."
That, HP CEO Carly Fiorina says, sums up Napier's view of the close relationship between business and technology. "Bob was all about how to make the technology enable and accelerate and inform that business decision," Fiorina said in an interview with InformationWeek, reflecting on Napier's role in bringing HP and Compaq together and, after that, helping HP devise its Adaptive Enterprise strategy for business customers.
Napier, who was 56 years old, was a hard-driving manager, but also someone who recognized and appreciated the contributions of his colleagues and subordinates, Fiorina says. "He could be a curmudgeon. He could break a lot of glass--but CIOs sometimes need to break a lot of glass," she says. "He was passionately committed to his team, to the mission he was on, and he had huge heart for the people who worked with him and for him."
As CIO of Compaq before the HP merger, Napier helped Compaq develop its E-commerce and E-business capabilities. Then, during the drawn-out proxy fight that preceded the merger of Compaq and HP, Napier used technology to support the nearly 1,200 premerger planners who had to be kept isolated from other employees of the two companies. When the merger was completed in May 2002, Napier and his team had done enough advance planning to complete the systems integration without disruption.
"It was pulled off better and faster than just about anyone on the outside would have predicted," Fiorina says. "The level of complexity and breadth and depth of this challenge was virtually unprecedented."
In addition to being CIO, Napier was an executive VP and member of HP's executive management team, reporting to Fiorina. "He was a person with a strong view, which I appreciated," Fiorina says. "Someone who's direct is hugely valuable." Vallerie Parrish-Porter, global information officer of HP's Personal Systems Group, is serving as the company's acting CIO.
Napier and Fiorina had worked together years earlier, when both were at Lucent Technologies. Napier also held CIO positions at Mariner Post-Acute Network, Delphi Automotive Systems, AT&T Global Business Communications Systems, and Lockheed Information Management Services.
Napier is survived by his wife, Cheryl, a daughter, Kelly, and two sons, Kevin and Brian.