HP CEO meg Whitman is still shy of four
months in her new role, and we are beginning
to see signs she is on the way to fixing much
of the disaster created by Leo Apotheker’s
But there are some big issues facing the very capable Whitman,
some of which are of Apotheker’s making and some of
which are not, that need fixing and will take months and, in
some cases, years to fix.
Making sure HP is never in a position where there isn’t a list
of serious CEO contenders in waiting
within the company is paramount. For
a company of HP’s stature to not have
a plan and a program to be constantly
grooming its future leaders is hard to
imagine. But after having brought in
four successive CEOs in a row from the
outside, Whitman has to fix this by making
sure she is the last outsider. Contrast
HP’s record with that of 100-year-old
IBM’s, which appointed just one CEO
from outside its ranks, and it becomes
clear something needs to change.
Start by building a world-class board
of directors that no one hears about.
I can’t think of a single public company
board in any business that has
had more drama surrounding it over
a longer period of time than HP’s. While I’m a big believer in
the independence of a board and generally don’t believe the
chairmanship should be held by the CEO, in HP’s case Whitman
has to build a stronger board that isn’t prone to bad decisions.
Fix the silos and develop an organization that supports the way
the customer wants to buy. This is a hugely complex problem no
doubt, but over time Whitman has to figure this out.
A company with as broad a product line as HP’s, and as large
as it is, needs to be organized divisionally. The issue is that the
customer doesn’t want to buy that way, and the indirect sales
channel doesn’t sell that way. Divisional structures are necessary
in order to drive focus on product. The challenge is to find out
where in the ultimate go-to-market chain the divisional structure
gives way to a streamlined sales and delivery structure.
The four divisional heads naturally evolve their own businesses
differently, with similar, but at times conflicting, interests.
A division driving toward a quarterly number isn’t going
to naturally adjust for other divisions’ needs. Adding to the
complexity is that each builds out a structure to support its
needs and further adds to confusion in the market. This is
one of the reasons no one can point to a single channel chief
for HP. It’s an even bigger issue for the
HP channel in the field. With different
divisional sales structures driving
individual agendas, some partners feel
like a ball in an old pinball machine
that gets banged around in different
Whitman and HP need a single face
for the channel -- someone that has the
power and jurisdiction to corral all HP’s
needs and build a strategy that pulls the
various interests of the company into
a go-to-market strategy. That needs to
come along with a doubling down on
communication around product and
programs. Whether or not HP is in or
out of the tablet market is just one of
the issues that should be communicated.
Whitman also needs her own independent advisory team -- a
group of people from outside HP and independent from the
board who is going to tell her what’s going on in the market
regardless of what’s going on inside the HP hallways. The great
news is that Whitman has already brought stability and solid
management to a company enormously important to the channel,
but her job is far from over.
BACKTALK: Make something happen. Robert Faletra
is CEO of UBM Channel. You can contact him via e-mail