September 23, 2013
Tuning Out HP News by Labeling it Noise
When something fresh or different enters your IT landscape, it's a good business practice to make time to understand it. A new software application, a different way of defining your networks, the scorecard on your vendor's turnaround. Those first two items are easier to analyze than the third, but a vendor's business news is not noise.
Few communities understand this listening better than the customers who own HP 3000s and run MPE. Their status might be homesteading, or migrating, or homesteading until a migration is possible. But when Hewlett-Packard ended its futures in the 3000 market, it did so because of what it called trouble in the "ecosystem." That's not a jungle of plants and animals outside HP's corporate HQ. The ecosystem is the collection of companies doing business for a platform's users. HP didn't like the look of its 3000 ecosystem. It couldn't do anything more about it, so the vendor pulled up stakes and closed its lab.
The world-rocking difference in that case was HP's business decision, not a technical shortfall. That vendor didn't tick off the missing elements of software (it had skipped out on doing a 64-bit MPE) or the hardware (slim and cheaper servers for Unix customers, but not MPE users). HP talked about the rest of the world's businesses and what it planned to do about connecting with them. It was consistent about choice: Unix, Windows, and other things not crafted by HP.
That's news, but in some quarters HP's business conditions are being labeled noise. The Chief Marketing Officer for the Connect user group Nina Buik not only believes that "the media earns its keep by making noise," she advising members to tune out news like HP's departure from the Dow Jones Industrials. Not important, she wrote this month. The drop from the Dow is symbolic, but it won't change things overnight. Few customers pick a vendor on the basis of its Dow membership. Investors do, and that impacts working capital and profits and growth funding. Dow is interesting, but Buik calls it noise compared to the HP message about becoming monolithic.
That's not really news, except in the latest five-year plan to execute it. Hewlett-Packard has been trying to act as a single company since the moment it started selling PCs in the 1980s. Its quest to monolithic futures is as constant as the direction of rain. Rain falls downward, as it always has.
News and noise can be confused, or just overlooked on purpose. If you don't want to include your vendor's business condition, you might be surprised -- like some of HP's OpenVMS users were -- when the futures run out. You'd want to hear the warnings about that, wouldn't you?Ah, but it's so much simpler, more sweeping to say that since HP's turnaround message is consistent, it's a conversation, instead of noise. Buik shared that view on the user group's website
Of course news about HP, its customers and partners are of special interest to me, because it may or may not be something that impacts our members... noise or conversation?
Recently, I read that the Dow dropped HP and replaced it with financial giant, Visa. While it was newsworthy, I put it in the noise bucket. HP’s Meg Whitman is very focused on her plan to turn the company around and back into the world’s leader of enterprise technology and innovation. Now THAT is a conversation! Adding to that conversation is the notion of ONE HP. I’ve heard this a lot over the past year and I’m looking forward to seeing the monolith come together and sell to customers in a unified, efficient and strategic manner. Otherwise ONE HP becomes noise. After all, there is only ONE HP!
There are many HPs. Some of them require a lot of overhead and generate a thick forest of partners, but scant profits. Another HP is focused on changes in IT shops -- HP works to earn profits as a provider of change services. Then there's the HP that created enterprise servers in focused markets. It's become a very small HP. Some of those markets have fallen from HP's turnaround plan. Others will follow. You don't turn things around by doing the same things, unless those things are profitable and offer growth.
What’s more important is the fact that the first 18 months at the helm, her focused message about who HP is its financial strength, its core focus areas, mutual trust, and the value of the enterprise ecosystem, consistent and crystal clear. Now that’s a conversation.
Those are only conversations when a vendor is responsive to your business needs, flexible about cost of ownership and capital expense, and ready to sustain value in a customer's investment. You'll read about stakeholders sitting with IT and talking about what to buy or build to grow a business. That's important, but those are also talks in private. A user group can do good work when it encourages members to share the best practices from such talks.
Failing that opportunity, you hope to get smarter by finding new information about such practices elsewhere. You'd like the practices to be sized for your organization, too. HP is still in the business of telling the world about its biggest deals, as if it that makes them a better vendor for any size of customer. Sometimes there's news about technology coming from the vendor's marketing group. Just listen to HP's news.
"HP today unveiled a suite of stylish consumer PCs, tablets and services including the world’s first notebook PC with integrated Leap Motion technology." Now, LeapMotion is a gesture-driven technology that's a candidate for replacing some trackpad functions. Noise or news? As always, it depends on whatever's important to the business units which you serve as an IT pro.
You can decide if part of your IT planning includes your vendor's business reports. If you'd like to hear what HP says in specific about its business plans, anyone can access a webpage to listen every 90 days to CEO Meg Whitman. She answers questions, live. It's recorded for later listening, too. It's the only regular conversation you'll hear from HP's leader. It happens because business analysts demand answers, because they want to process and parse new developments. And Whitman's recent answers have included notes about how its Unix servers have stopped being a growth business. The whole BCS unit has stopped growing.
The last time HP took notice of a server business and its growth forecasts, it was the 3000's. This summer the OpenVMS departure clock began to tick. If HP's among your preferred vendors, don't kid yourself. Business matters take a front seat in your vendor's plans. People don't make decisions about IT based entirely on a turnaround CEO's message, no matter how consistent. People using HP servers were once called programmer analysts. They might not program much any more, but they still need to analyze. You need information that's current to do that. A consistent message is important to a turnaround mantra, but probably doesn't keep pace with change.
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