HP to Oracle: It's On, Baby, It's On!

Rob Enderle

HP just hired a new CEO and chairman, both hand-selected over the objections of Mark Hurd's heir apparent, to battle for cloud computing against Oracle and IBM. I don't know any two people more capable and willing to take Oracle on and apart-outside of Charles Phillips who is under a heavy non-compete agreement. HP has hired battle commanders in Ray Lane and Leo Apotheker. Both have unmatched knowledge of Oracle and Larry Ellison, and both are likely known and preferred by many existing Oracle customers.

 

Let's talk impact.

 

HP Employees

 

Both Lane and Apotheker were known to be very good at employee retention and care, but both clearly have a heavy software focus. They will quickly work to restore the software investments and status that Hurd decimated. He eliminated one of the strongest women in software, Nora Denzel, an IBM-trained executive who was building a powerful software unit under Carly Fiorina. This was the one part of Fiorina's vision that Hurd clearly didn't understand, and it put HP at a huge disadvantage against IBM and Oracle.

 

This suggests they will treat HP's employees vastly better in general, but they will be focused like lasers on rapidly building out a software unit. They will be vastly more effective at holding onto employees from the acquisition of 3PAR as well as EDS. (They value services and storage very highly as well).


 

So while working at HP will become vastly friendlier in general, employees in software, storage, and services will get special attention.

 

HP Customers

 

Both men are well-known for customer care. Lane stands out as the guy who was able to stop the massive customer erosion that Ellison was causing at the time Lane was hired to run Oracle. Both were near beloved by their key customers, but the gnashing of teeth that went on when Lane was replaced again by Ellison was particularly evident. I recall one Oracle customer CIO saying at the time, "I don't know who Larry's enemy is, but I'm afraid it is us."

 

These are long-term players who have demonstrated that they value and will protect customer loyalty. They are building a new HP, though, and will be seeking advice and counsel from key customers. I would recommend providing it, if asked. You have an unparalleled chance to help form a company that could better meet your needs. These chances don't come around often, so I'd grab the opportunity.

 

Todd Bradley

 

Todd Bradley had aggressively positioned himself as the next CEO and apparently had been lobbying heavily both inside and outside the company for the job. It is believed that Hurd had promised the job to him to keep him from leaving in 2008. But Bradley wasn't right for it, and, considering the track that HP is on, likely will never be considered again. In fact, he allegedly had indicated that if he didn't get the job this round, he would resign. Even if he doesn't, it would be unusual for the company to keep the handpicked successor to the CEO that was terminated.

 

Wrapping Up: Now that's a Corporate Board

 

This is only the start of massive changes at HP as it reforms itself for new opportunities, corrects Hurd's mistakes and takes on Oracle. This is the HP board that had been subordinated to Hurd's will, but broke its leash, kicked him out and over the objections of Hurd's handpicked successor, got two executives that could address the majority of HPs internal and external problems.

 

No board at HP or any other company I can recall recently has had to overcome so much to accomplish what many thought was impossible. Not since the IBM board brought on Louis Gerstner and company have I seen this level of excellence from a board. The word "heroic" comes to mind. I just wish we could apply this word more as a rule, rather than an exception. Regardless, the words "nice job" seem an entirely inadequate response to what was just accomplished.



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