HP is telling its story of transformation this week, a tale that the vendor says was completed in 391 days. It's the amount of time between the official announcement of the HP split-up to the day when thousands of systems had to be operational with no faults. The fortunes of a pair of Fortune 50 firms were riding on the outcome of turning Hewlett-Packard into HP Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise.
It was a migration in one aspect: the largest project for internal IT HP has ever taken on. HP's in-house publication, HP Matter, interviewed its COO Chris Hsu about his practices in one of the largest IT change operations in business history. Matter has been renamed HPE Matter, and its article shares some strategic high points.
To develop the highest-level list of how to manage a large-change, high risk project, here's Hsu's items.
1: Determine what the biggest, most critical workstreams are
2. Figure out which ones act as gating items.
3. Get the best people in the company to head up the project; get them full-time, and up and running right away.
4. Make everything else secondary to items 1-3.
5. Get structure, process, governance and people in place.
It takes total management support to make item No. 3 a reality. That same kind of support, one that some HP 3000 sites have enjoyed during migrations, makes No. 4 possible. It all leads to the payoff of No. 5.
"I spent the first month working around the clock, trying to make all of that happen,” Hsu said. “At this scale and this complexity, with the number of interdependencies we were facing, there is no substitute for structure, process and governance. There just isn’t.”
Hsu's five elements of his change mission beg for details. Since the HP story on how to separate over about 13 months appeared in a Hewlett Packard PR publication, it won't have operational items. But the company says it's taken close notes for any of its customers to employ -- should they employ HP's professional services for a project like a migration. Hsu said getting paychecks and sales under control comprised the most crucial elements.
You essentially have to separate and realign all 700 legal entities, and every one of those entities includes assets, people, revenue and so on. You have to figure out what the phasing and timing of each will be in order to get the IT systems up and running and in order to get employees in place so you can turn those systems on so that everyone will have day-to-day needs met, everyone will get paid and everyone will be able to manage transactions.
While praising his team's efforts at the separation, Hsu took note that this was an emotional journey away from "an engineering company with an innovation mindset, which can sometimes mean that people engineer solutions to perfection by employing perfect information. But during the separation, we had to make big decisions quickly and often with imperfect information."
Those are lessons that can be useful for the largest of migration efforts. Sometimes speed runs roughshod over motivating a workforce.
One thing that struck me... is how emotional the prospect of the separation was for so many people. At the very beginning, some of my colleagues were voicing feelings of loss in a way that I simply didn’t anticipate because from the start, I saw this as a clear, value-creating transaction with a clear mission. But I definitely understand their emotional reactions now, because for that first month and a half after the separation announcement, we were moving at a pace that had people’s heads spinning.