What HP Needs In Its Next CEO

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It’s time to stop talking about the what, why or how of the Mark Hurd debacle and start speculating about what HP needs in its next CEO. I love the drama as much as anyone, but it’s just time already to move on.

While I know there was cheering on the part of at least some of the workforce when the HP Board pushed both Carly Fiorina and Mark Hurd out, both individuals added real value and made HP a better company. Today, it is arguably the most important high-tech company in the world.

Fiorina pulled the company out of the engineering focus and got it
headed in the marketing and sales direction. She rightfully refused to
bend to the Wall Street crowd that wanted the company broken up in
order to return short-term value. Had she not stood her ground, it would not be the company it is today.

Along came Hurd who, love him or hate him, brought a new level of discipline to the company around meeting sales objectives. The channel was largely a fan, and Hurd made a point of attending the partner conferences to show his interest, support and belief in the sales channel on which HP had come to rely. He added confidence in the company that Fiorina had left in a state of uncertainty.

Contrasting the two, Fiorina was a brand-builder, including her own. She enjoyed the CEO celebrity spotlight, and dare I say that it helped HP. Hurd, of course, was much more of a behind-the-scenes, less visible CEO that demanded results and was a relentless cost-cutter.

They both had their strengths and weaknesses. I’d argue that they both delivered more positives than negatives, and that had they not been there, HP would not be the largest IT company in the world today. It’s why this just might be one of the most attractive top-tier CEO jobs for the future.

So what’s next, and what is HP instructing its executive recruiters to look for this time around? Will it seriously consider internal candidates? And should it be a single individual, or is it time for this company to consider a clear No. 2? Apple has a very strong No. 2 person in Tim Cook. For many years, Microsoft had Bill and Steve. Unfortunately, the
No. 1 and No. 2 approaches happen naturally, or not at all.

So here’s my list of must-haves. First off, the next HP CEO should not be a celebrity seeker but should be someone who is willing to step into the limelight enough to be seen as a serious contender for the “industry
leader” as well as the HP leader. Right now, there really is no CEO in
the business that stands above the rest in terms of overall vision.

The person also needs to be someone who will push for innovation. HP was built on great engineering, and while I believed years ago it needed more sales and marketing discipline, HP should do more to nurture the great engineering that is locked inside of its walls. HP
needs someone who can help bring that engineering glitz back.

The next leader has to continue down the path of consistency in its
message to the channel and customers. That’s one of the things Hurd
brought after a period of uncertainty under Fiorina, it will do no one any good if the direction of its go-to-market strategy is hazy.

In my opinion, HP’s next CEO does not need to be in the IT industry. My bet is, if it is not an internal candidate, there’s an excellent chance that the next leader will come from outside the high-tech industry.

BACKTALK: Make something happen. Robert Faletra
is CEO of Everything Channel. You can contact him via e-mail at robert.faletra@ec.ubm.com.

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