HP shows their inner dinosaur as it heads back to the future

megIn the last week HP’s uber-boss, Meg Whiteman, has effectively banned working from home following Yahoo’s stance and showing that the organisation is being run by dinosaurs. This type of decision, and move back toward a command and control style of management, should be worrying stockholders and customers alike. This is not the kind of move that a global ICT company should be taking. In fact, it’s likely to tip out some of their best staff further reducing the overall company IQ.

“During this critical turnaround period, HP needs all hands on deck. We recognize that in the past, we may have asked certain employees to work from home for various reasons. We now need to build a stronger culture of engagement and collaboration and the more employees we get into the office the better company we will be.”

It’s an interesting statement. It’s not often you see the use of the word “critical” and yet there it is. Something is wrong at HP and sending all the chickens back to the coop isn’t going to help. In fact, driving staff back into an office environment is likely to reduce engagement, create more silos, and dumb down collaboration.

“It’s a control mechanism. Pure and simple. I read all the rhetoric about why this is not good…and having people come in an office is better….but tell me, how many good, solid, hard working people did HP lose by killing this? How much knowledge was lost by HP and gained by their competition when this happened?” – Former HP staffer who left after the policy was instituted

This move back to being tied to the desk and property physically, is a retrograde step in a world where everyone is doing the opposite. Long term studies have shown that the ability to work on your own terms from whatever location you choose means more productivity, happier employees, less turnover, and reduced operating costs for the company.

Further, the entire world is moving to a Fractilised Working model where, driven by the customer, we are expected to be online and persistent across all forms of social media all the time. This has its own risks that need to be managed, the point is, flexibility is king and measuring employees by their results is how it works.

What you see instead is a bunch of middle and upper managers who would rather measure people by the time they sit in an office chair staring dumbly at a screen. You can almost smell the panic. Uber-clock watchers with zero ability to actually manage the results out of people. A good manager will have teams that consistently perform highly regardless of where they are sitting.

You can read the outpouring of emotion in the form of comments by HP staff here. This is a company that is not happy at all.

What the company should be focussing on is services and Cloud. Both, in my opinion, are in a relatively poor state.

HP attempted to swallow the EDS tiger and has nearly been clawed to death in the process. However, the EDS model, for a large enterprise, is a good one. It’s outcome focussed and fairly standardised. But they don’t seem to be selling that anywhere, certainly nothing of consequence in New Zealand.

Where HP are really going to start to bleed out is the infrastructure area. Five years ago they introduced excellent infrastructure in the form of their Converged offering. This technology was what HP should have then immediately built their Cloud platform on and headed straight out into the market. Instead, they continued to push the selling of tin, missing the fact that most CIO’s these days are looking at infrastructure and saying “why would I spend ten times as much buying hardware and putting it in a datacentre I have to manage when I can get it for a fraction of the cost from Cloud computing?”

The days of infrastructure sales are rapidly coming to a close and HP is still highly geared toward that old sales model. Sell tin, sell more tin, sell upgrades to tin, sell surrounding tin, and so on. PC’s and servers were always the company’s bread and butter, and the death of both, due to Cloud computing, is most likely what is hurting them.

“Apple co-founder Steve Jobs lamented the demise of H-P. “Hewlett and Packard built a great company, and they thought they left it in good hands,” he said, as quoted by Walter Isaacson (the author of the only official Steve Jobs biography). “But now it’s being dismembered and destroyed. It’s tragic. I hope I’ve left a stronger legacy so that will never happen at Apple.”

HP’s Cloud market share is small. Unlike Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and other super Cloud heavyweights, HP has not thrown itself into the Cloud. It’s trying to still sell hardware while selling Cloud and the two are at odds with each other. Worse, their services area is being eaten away by software as a service as the giants like SAP and Oracle draw customers back into their “Clouds” along with wrapped management services surrounding the offerings.

It is a great irony that when HP was founded in 1939 by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, they worked from home. Both starting the company from their garage. Innovation often springs from the garage it seems. HP would have been better advised to send everyone home, not bring them back to empty offices.


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