HP's Baez: We're No Longer 'Built For Slow'

HP CIO discusses changing the company culture, spending more time with customers, and moving to cloud platforms to execute faster.

Rob Preston, VP & Editor in Chief, InformationWeek

November 22, 2013

5 Min Read
<b>Baez: "I don't want us viewed just as a service provider."</b>

I asked Baez how his work at HP differs from his work at consumer packaged-goods company Kimberly-Clark, where he was CIO for five years. Now that he's working for an IT vendor, is he meeting with customers more?

"That's probably a fair statement compared with K-C," he said, "but I worked at Northrup Grumman for 25 years. I worked on the B-2 bomber program for 15 years of those 25. I met with generals, light colonels, full bird colonels, GS-15s, and all those folks for years. So my working with customers is not new. At K-C, on my very first day on the job they said they wanted me to meet with our largest customers within the first month. My boss, thank God, he protected me. I didn't know where the bathrooms were. I was new to [consumer packaged goods]. But once I did understand the business and understand how to have the right kind of dialog with customers, it was powerful to have the CIO meet with the other customer CIOs."

At Kimberly-Clark, Baez estimates, he spent about 10 percent of his time with customers, "up to 20 percent during some months." At HP it's more like 20 percent to 25 percent. "That may grow, but the problem is I have a large organization to run, and when there's something that doesn't work well, guess who gets pulled back?"

Was the learning curve flatter at HP, given that he didn't have to learn a new industry? Not necessarily. "There's a whole different language here. People wanted to talk to me in acronyms. I'd say to them: 'I haven't a clue what you just said.' I forced people to speak English here. It's kinda weird being a Puerto Rican telling them they have to speak English," he said with a laugh. "The fun part is they sometimes didn't even know what the acronym meant. That's not just here. That's been in every company I've worked for. When I worked at Northrup Grumman, ACS meant air combat systems. When I went to Honeywell, ACS stood for automated control solutions.

"People always told me, 'Wow, you're going to work for a tech company. It's like working for 300,000 CIOs. No it's not. It's working for very, very bright people."

I asked Baez about the HP IT organization's leadership structure, including the fact that four business unit CIOs report to him as well as to the heads of their respective business units (company veteran Tami Mallett is CIO of the Enterprise group, former Palm CIO Naresh Shanker is CIO at Personal and Printing Systems, former Avaya exec Steve Bandrowczak is at Enterprise Services, and company veteran Saum Mathur is at Software).

"If I can, I like to promote from within, but I do like to bring in people from outside -- I like to be able to do both," he said. "The reason I like that is that I don't want to lose the heritage and the legacy knowledge that the really good people of the company can bring. But I love to bring some fresh eyes in to look at doing things differently than we've always done here. I like that kind of dynamic tension."

I asked Baez about the attributes and limitations of software-as-a-service, which Hinshaw, his boss, had described to me as almost the default software model now at the company. HP completed an 18-month, 30,000-seat deployment of Salesforce.com to its sales reps in the third quarter, for example, and it's on track to complete a 330,000-seat deployment of Workday's HR SaaS by the end of this year. Would HP ever consider replacing its SAP on-premises financial software with a SaaS version from SAP, Workday, or some other vendor?

"Not at this time. Our financials are too complex," Baez said. "The complexity and the volume and scale here are tremendous." How about the company's supply chain and material requirements planning software? There, it uses SaaS at the edges: Steelwedge for demand planning and sales and operations planning; GTNexus for connecting with logistics service providers; e2Open for partner integration and supplier collaboration. But HP won't be moving off on-prem ERP for at least a few years, again because of the complexity of its supply chain, "though we've been talking about that," Baez said.

Whenever HP is looking to replace existing applications or bring in new ones, Baez said, it considers three options: adopting vendor SaaS, adopting vendor on-premises software, or "developing it ourselves, because we have brilliant engineers in the organization. I love to have that flexibility. I hate to have a playbook that's only one way of doing things. That's nuts. I like to give the organization options on how to make things happen.

"What I love about SaaS is that I can go to market much faster, and I can keep that technology, that application modern forever, because they update it every three months. The change management isn't that difficult to deal with. But we still need to ensure that our data is going to be secure. I want to know that that's a reputable company, a company that thinks about security more than anything else. Because if they fail, we fail."

Baez said HP is migrating more software to its own private cloud. For example, it can now provision Microsoft SQL Server database-as-a-service from its private cloud in minutes, a process that used to take employees two weeks. "I tell you, our processes were built for slow," Baez said. "It was amazing. But now when an engineer needs a database, he or she literally can request the database and have it within two to five minutes. It's all about speed here at HP. When you think about our turnaround, everything here has to do with velocity, how to continue to increase velocity."

HP's experience is something that the IT team can impart to customers as well, Baez said. "What I've asked my team to do, as we do this stuff, I go, 'Please, document our lessons learned. What went well and what didn't.' So when we meet with our customers and are selling them cloud system automation, as an example, we can tell them what we went through, the watch-outs. So they don't have to go through those lessons learned."

Want to relegate cloud software to edge apps or smaller businesses? No way. Also in the new, all-digital Cloud Software: Where Next? special issue of InformationWeek: The tech industry is rife with over-the-top, groundless predictions and estimates. (Free registration required.)

About the Author(s)

Rob Preston

VP & Editor in Chief, InformationWeek

Rob Preston currently serves as VP and editor in chief of InformationWeek, where he oversees the editorial content and direction of its various website, digital magazine, Webcast, live and virtual event, and other products. Rob has 25 years of experience in high-tech publishing and media, during which time he has been a senior-level editor at CommunicationsWeek, CommunicationsWeek International, InternetWeek, and Network Computing. Rob has a B.A. in journalism from St. Bonaventure University and an M.A. in economics from Binghamton University.

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