HP Gets On The Long Path To Modernisation

We have a few observations about HP’s internal reorganisation to combine its printer and PC businesses, something the company has needed for a long while.

For starters, it looks like HP’s new CEO, Meg Whitman, is making some moves that will help the venerable but embattled company in the long run. There will be varying opinions on the direction she takes, but we think these are changes for the better – both  in the short and long term.

Why? Because like data centres themselves, companies are now converging internally to become more efficient. New generation Web service companies, for example, are born with this knowledge.

These new IT-driven enterprises already know they have access to software and cloud service tools that enable fewer people to do more work, more efficiently. Smart old-line companies realise this too. Some of them are moving off the well-worn paths of the past, and making moves toward consolidation, like the one HP announced on 21 March, that bring them into the 21st century office culture.

Because both the PC and printer businesses were profitable but had diminishing returns last quarter, it is not yet clear to many investors how combining the two businesses will help deal with broader market changes – such as dealing with the rise of tablet PCs – other than straight cost-cutting.

Whitman, who came to HP after a successful CEO stint at one of those new-gen Web service providers, eBay, has to prove to HP’s investors that she is making the right moves.

A new kind of corporate culture

Back to company culture for a minute, because it all ties in with the consolidation plan. The days of the single-service office admin are long gone, or at least they should be. Multitasking is the norm; cross-office interaction is enabled by new internal social networks and wonderful new collaboration software packages. Document storage and HR services in the cloud are now commonplace. HP has operated in silos for years; those will be going away.

And here’s another sign of the times: we’ll soon see if HP joins the growing list of companies that are doing away completely with private offices for managers.

More and more companies are finding out that cubes for everyone – well, maybe slightly larger cubes for higher-up managers – work out much better in a lot of ways for the enterprise culture. Physical barriers disappearing also have the effect of breaking down invisible barriers between various levels of employees at a company, which leads to improved information sharing and more conversations.

It is much better for overall morale, too. If two or more people really need to have a private conversation, they can move into a meeting room built specifically for that purpose. We will see if the HP culture freshens up to this level.

The bottom line on the culture change is this: when ideas and hard information flow quicker and easier from one person to another, that’s when innovation tends to happen. This is how the open source software world has operated for decades, and that community is largely responsible for much of the new-gen IT innovation of the last 20 years.

Printers and PCs, brothers to the end

Chris Preimesberger

Editor of eWEEK and repository of knowledge on storage, amongst other things

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