HP Global CIO: Pending HP Split A Lesson In Avoiding Disruption

Even as Hewlett-Packard continues to push forward on plans to divide into two companies, it also is pushing hard on disrupting its own operations in an effort to make sure it does not get disrupted by an industrywide move toward digitization.

That's the word from Ramon Baez, HP's senior vice president of customer advocacy and global CIO, who also said that HP has learned a lot about the importance of being outward-focused during its split.

Baez, speaking to several hundred customers attending the annual Nth Generation Symposium, held this week in Anaheim, Calif., by solution provider Nth Generation Computing, said companies like Uber and Tesla have shown the power of digital disruption.

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Some Uber customers, for instance, are already starting to cancel a ride if the driver can't get to their home within five minutes, he said. And Tesla, with the level of IT integration in its vehicles, is more than an electric car company. "They changed the whole experience [about] how you buy a car," he said. "About how you get upgrades."

Baez also added Dock to Dish, a Montauk, N.Y., developer of technology to connect fishermen directly to restaurants and home kitchens, to his list of disrupters. He said Dock to Dish, like Uber and Tesla, has disrupted older industries, in this case the shipping of fish that is frozen to be packaged for reshipment to customers.

"All these companies had an idea," he said. "And they're disrupting the marketplace."

Disrupting existing markets is an important way to grow, Baez said. "How many of you want to be a disrupter as opposed to being disrupted?" he said. "It's about survival of the fittest."

Baez said that when he joined HP three years ago he had to look at how to lessen the chance of it being disrupted by determining how to make things less complex, reduce costs, focus on new revenue and profit opportunities, and lower risks.

These are the same issues all companies face, he said. "We all have these [same] megatrends. ... We all have these imperatives the board wants," he said. "And in the middle, we have legacy IT."

For Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP, the move to become a digital company will make it better able to withstand disruptive forces like those in data centers. By the time Baez started at HP, the company already had reduced the number of data centers it operated to six from a high of 85.

However, three years ago, HP was looking at deploying a number of EcoPod modular data centers to meet expanding needs. Instead, the company migrated to an on-premise cloud powered with HP technologies like Moonshot servers, and is now down to five data centers, Baez said.

As a result of the on-premise cloud, HP now deploys new servers within hours vs. 21 to 30 days in the past, he said.

The next stage is taking HP from Infrastructure-as-a-Service to Platform-as-a-Service with its Helion cloud, Baez said. One result is that it now takes two days to develop an application used to find specific HP personnel vs. nine months in the past.

Changes to the application now take five minutes vs. 30 days in the past, he said. "That's why some people say IT isn't an enabler," he said. "It's a disabler."

HP already has entered the third stage, which Baez said is security, with the January 2013 appointment of a chief information security officer, or CISO. By the end of this year, HP expects to add an additional 250 cybersecurity experts to its staff, he said.

The fourth stage, which is harnessing big data, will be important as companies like HP learn new ways to find what they may be missing in terms of new revenue or profit generators, he said.

Baez's presentation closely matches the business focus of Nth Generation, said Dan Molina, the San Diego-based solution provider's CTO.

"Technology is evolving so much that it can truly make a substantial impact on business," Molina told CRN.

Baez pointed out the importance of technology to today's "idea economy" as businesses find new ways to disrupt old processes and then move quickly to execute on them, Molina said. "This is so similar to the message we offer to our HP customers every day," he said.