November 22, 2017
Whitman leaves HP better than she found it
HP Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman is stepping down from the company's leadership seat, effective January 31, 2018. After her run of more than six years it can be argued Whitman is leaving an HP in better shape than she found the corporation. One measure of her success lies in HPE's revenue growth in spite of headwinds, as the analysts call challenges like cloud competition. That fact can be offset with the number of layoffs during her tenure. Most estimates put that figure at more than 30,000, an employment disruption that ranges even wider when accounting for divestitures and the split-up of HP.
Numbers don't say enough about Whitman's impact on the future of the vendor which invented HP 3000s and MPE. After a string of three CEOs who ended their terms disgraced or fired, she brought a steady gait to a company in desperate need of a reunion with its roots. The Hewlett-Packard of the 1980s delivered the greatest success to MPE customers. In hand-picking Antonio Neri as her successor, Whitman has returned HP to its 20th Century roots. The Enterprise arm of HP will be led by an engineer who's worked only for HP. The last time that was true, Lew Platt was CEO of an HP that was still in one piece, instead of the two of 2017.
Hewlett-Packard finally made that transition into two companies on Whitman's watch, after a decade when the printer-server split was debated around the industry. She also pruned away the leafy branches that made the HP tree wider but no taller: Autonomy and other ill-matched acquisitions were cut loose. She said in an interview on CNBC today that the time for "supermarket IT" suppliers is gone, and the future belongs to the fast. Whitman's years reversed some damage at HP, which at least beat analyst estimates for its Q4 earnings.
"What If" was once an ad slogan for Hewlett-Packard. The question could be posed around Whitman's role at the company. What if this executive woman took HP's reins in 1999? She was already a CEO in that year at eBay. From the way Whitman has brought HP's headlong blundering to heel, she might have kept the company focused on the mission of the current day's HP Enterprise.
The rise of mobile computing and off-premise IT was always going to hound HP, a corporation built to sell specialized hardware and proprietary software. Passing the baton to an engineer leader—Neri started in the HP EMEA call center—shows Whitman knows more about HP's culture than anyone who's had the CEO job since 1999. She remains on HP's board and said she'll be available for sales calls in the future, too.
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