Global CIO: Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, & Cisco Face Looming Identity Crises - InformationWeek
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Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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Global CIO: Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, & Cisco Face Looming Identity Crises

Many leading IT companies are best-known for their legacies instead of their present potential—and that's going to become a big problem.

Why don't we refer to Wal-Mart as "the world's leading consumer of time-sheets"? I mean, it's accurate, isn't it?

Or how about McDonald's—why don't we call them "the world's leading fast-food provider of drinking straws"? After all, it's the truth, isn't it?

Yet Hewlett-Packard is known, far and wide, as "the world's leading manufacturer of PCs," which is about as relevant as in describing HP as are the McDonald's and Wal-Mart descriptors above. Why can't HP escape that one-dimensional portrayal?

Then there's Cisco, "the networking giant"—again, it's not inaccurate, but does that really capture who and what Cisco is? Does it convey the wide spectrum of customer value and innovation that Cisco offers? Is the Cisco story really limited to routers, hubs, and switches?

And we also have Oracle, referred to with mind-numbing consistency in the media as "the database giant." At SAP's recent Sapphire event, which surely draws a very Oracle-aware crowd, a few different people (not all SAP employees, by the way) went to great lengths to try to convince me that Oracle is a database company because, they said, it gets 80% of its revenue and all of its profits from databases. They weren't interested in looking at Oracle's recent financial statements to see if the facts bore out their contentions—they had their story and they were sticking with it because it was convenient, comfortable, and connected vaguely to something resembling the truth.

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But anyway, does all this really matter? Is it of any consequence if people's perceptions of major IT companies don't align with reality? Does anybody actually give a hoot if the general media and increasing percentages of the so-called business media don't know and don't care what, in fact, these companies are all about? Will all your mission-critical systems come to a disastrous halt if much of the world in general thinks that HP is all about PCs and Oracle is all about databases and Cisco is all about networks?

I think these issues matter—and matter greatly—for at least these three reasons:

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