Global CIO: Hewlett-Packard's New CEO: The Top 10 Challenges - InformationWeek

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Bob Evans
Bob Evans

Global CIO: Hewlett-Packard's New CEO: The Top 10 Challenges

They include forging a new product strategy, focusing on transformation, spotting hot new markets, maybe dumping PCs, and not getting obsessed with "the HP Way."

After the meet-and-greets in Palo Alto and around the world, and after sitting through the mandatory seminars on sexual harassment and expense-report policies, Hewlett-Packard's new CEO will have in front of him or her a tantalizing set of challenges.

Sitting atop the world's largest IT company, HP's new CEO will have a set of assets almost unmatched in the corporate world: great people, powerful technology, financial muscle, strong brand reputation, and huge (I am tempted to say limitless) opportunities.

Certainly a bit of damage-control with regard to the former CEO will be necessary but I suspect HP and its new boss will move through that phase very rapidly and get on to the vastly more relevant and exciting business at hand.

With more than $300 million in revenue pouring into the company every single day (about $12 million per hour, 24/7), and a few hundred thousand employees in almost 200 countries around the globe, and a rapidly expanding and evolving set of products and services, and perhaps most important a phenomenal set of deeply engaged customers, HP's new CEO could be forgiven for wondering where the heck to begin. So as a public service, we've put together a list of the Top 10 Challenges that the new boss should tackle.

1) What's Hewlett-Packard's unique promise to its enterprise customers? It's not PCs and it's not printers, it's not systems integration and it's not Palm. And it's not being "the infrastructure company," which was the former CEO's misguided concept for defining an overarching position for the company. While HP's technology and services are what the company delivers to the customer, what that customer extracts and expects from the HP relationship is not storage and servers and software.

Rather, those customers expect to realize improvement: more speed, less cost, more insights, less busywork, more focus, more time, more ideas. They expect that your stuff will help them become better, faster, smarter. They expect your stuff will help them change. They expect your stuff will help them, in concert with a great deal of hard work on their part, transform from what they have been to what they need to be. They expect HP to help deliver transformation—and if HP accepts that value proposition, then HP should strive to be The Transformation Company.

Almost exactly one year ago, in an open letter to the former CEO, I first raised that suggestion. I still think the opportunity is ideal for HP because all CIOs today understand the need for their companies to be retooled and rebuilt from the ground up around new IT and business-technology capabilities and strategies that make those types of profound transformation possible.

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2) Change the focus from soap operas to customers. Whether it was spying on reporters or allegedly paying off foreign governments or playing fast and loose with expense reporting, HP's had a string of embarrassing and almost bizarre upper-level distractions that have made lots of people outside the company wonder if there's something funny in the water out in Palo Alto.

That was all before your time, of course, but as your employees and customers and partners and investors get to know you, those jarring blunders will still sit front and center in their minds as they evaluate just who you are and what sort of leadership you'll provide. So acknowledge the handful of lapses in judgment, and then quickly promise that the company's new focus and clarity of purpose and enduring values will sustain and enhance the organization going forward.

Demonstrate that new focus with a set of clear and ambitious goals around customer retention and brand trust, around setting new technology-performance standards, and around the delivery of new levels of definable business value to customers (and thereby to shareholders) that no one else in the industry can match.

On that last point, I would recommend a long discussion with your longtime partners at SAP about their "value engineering" portfolio, which is a knowledge base of customers' processes, best practices, innovations, and more. Is there a Center For Business Value in HP's future?

Next comes competitive differentiation:

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